Even if you are a sole proprietor, starting your own business requires you to talk to people. From vendors to potential investors, networking helps you to get the best deals, find the best financing options, learn more about your industry, and of course, bring in customers. Whether you attend networking events or do all your "legwork" online, check out these reasons that networking is essential for your small business.
1. Networking Teaches You Communication Skills
If you are new to the world of business and tend to be shy, networking with people might not come naturally to you. Attending networking events or joining online groups related to your industry provides you with opportunities to hone your communication skills. When you attend events in person, you'll learn how to become an active listener, look people in the eye, shake hands with confidence, and eventually, feel more at ease in social settings meant for business networking. Eventually, you'll be holding professional conversations online and off with ease.
2. It Helps You Generate Referrals
If you're just starting out, you may not know which vendors are the best or where to start looking for clients. Networking with other people allows you to find out who their favorite inventory suppliers are and which ones to avoid. It's also a great way to gain client referrals in the industry. For example, if you own an interior design business and someone you meet at an industry function builds custom furniture or paints, you can work together to see which clients might need both services. These leads are often of a higher quality than if you were to blindly advertise on the internet or via mailers.
3. It Makes You More Visible
Without networking, how will anybody know your business exists? By attending networking events in your city, state, or even the region, you make sure you get noticed. The more often you show up at social gatherings or business seminars, the more often people will recognize you and the more memorable you become. By showing yourself as someone who is reliable and knowledgeable in your industry, you build a strong reputation and earn respect from others in the field.
4. It Helps You Identify New Business Trends
Regardless of what type of business you own, there are bound to be changes in the industry. Professional networking, such as attending classes or conferences in the area, help you to stay on top of the latest industry trends. When you have "insider" information about the next up-and-coming thing, you can decide ahead of time whether it's right for your business, how you'll fund it, and how you'll implement it in a way that benefits both you and your customers.
5. It Lets You Make Friends
Yes, gaining new clients and industry leads is important, but something else is important when you're your own boss: making friends. Making new friends is hard enough as an adult, but it's even harder when you don't work in a traditional office. Networking for your business also provides you with opportunities to make new friends that have similar interests and understand when you need to put in long hours.
6. Networking Provides You With More Confidence
Attending networking activities and meetings allow you to build more confidence in your products, your presentation, and yourself. As you learn to speak with others in your industry, you also learn what may or may not work when pitching to new clients. The increase in confidence makes it easier to bring in new customers and is likely to extend into your personal life as well.
You have a great product. You know you can sell it. Now you just need to network. If you're shy, start simple by joining a relevant Facebook group or following industry leaders on Twitter. Over time, you can work your way up to networking in person by attending seminars, conferences, or even just meetups having to do with your business.