Ahhh, networking. If you have a small business you would know that the term ‘networking’ arises in many a conversation. Let’s break down why networking is a must for small biz owners.
What is business networking?
By definition, networking is: the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
Which means yes, interacting with other people – usually <gasp> face-to-face. Not being terribly introverted (I have my moments) I am aware that the thought of interacting with strangers, in person, in a somewhat ‘salesy’ manner frightens the crap outta some peeps.
If this is you, don’t stress- there are plenty of businesses who have had major success sans traditional-networking and you could definitely be amongst them. Or perhaps, you just need to find the perfect group for you.
Contrary to popular belief, networking doesn’t have to be schmoozing, sales and buying other people drinks. I think there was definitely an element of this to it when business was men-only and their wives were home cooking dinner for their 2.5 kids.
Women are the networkers’ networker…
Thankfully the times are a-changing and I believe women have come in and helped shake things up a bit on the business networking front.
For this reason, there are more and more groups emerging specifically for women. Groups centred around support, sharing advice, stories and overall, genuine connection. If you ask me, women are made for networking.
It’s a great position to be in if you are a woman embarking on the start-up life. Even better if you’re a mum because us mums know a thing or two about exchanging information (ever heard of the mum grapevine?).
So, what exactly are the benefits of joining the right networking group?
Read on for the reasons I believe networking helps small businesses the most.
1. Making friends.
This is pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps you’re someone who feels like you ‘already have enough friends’ (which, I never understood myself, but have heard many times).
These friendships are different though (which, again is the best thing about have many friendships, right?)
The beauty of these friends, is that they are often going through the exact same things you are. They have the same drive, same ambition and same interest in levelling-up in life, including their biz .
Being around likeminded people who ‘get you’ majorly increases your own vibe and only good things can come from that.
2. Instant catalogue of services.
Need a web developer? Tax accountant? Interior designer? Chances are you can look no further than those around you.
And as a bonus, when there isn’t someone to fit the niche you are looking for you can always ask for a recommendation.
This feeds into point 4 further down, too. When you are looking for someone or something, we will ask those around us that we trust. You can trust your peers not to give you a good recommendation, straight up.
The best part is, if you end up using one of your networking buddies, you will be not only supporting local business but a friend, too (refer to point 1).
3. Exchange of information.
If you’re in the right group – your peers are generous and forthcoming with their learnings and support.
Anyone who has had a ride on the business rollercoaster knows the countless ups and downs you will experience. Many hard lessons can be thrown our way when trying to get a side-hustle off the ground. This is where strength in numbers helps.
More people in the same situation = more collective mistakes and more lessons for others. Other women are willing to share their F-ups to prevent you making the same ones or recommend a way they did something that they feel was beneficial.
It also gives you the opportunity to return the favour and you would be surprised how much knowledge you have to share with the world!
4. Word-of-mouth referrals for the win!
When people get to know you, you become synonymous with your niche in your networking group.
Instagram guru? Email marketing whiz? Jewellery maker? Insurance go-to? Whenever someone has a problem that needs solving they will refer to you. This extends outside of the group too – your networking pals refer to their own network including their family and friends. This is also why making friends should be more of a goal in networking than selling yourself.
If people happen to have a need for a product or service that you provide, they will come to you more often than not because they like you and therefore they want to support you. I mean, they also have to like your product or service but if it’s a choice between your product A and Mr Random product B of the same quality, they will choose you – Every. Single. Time.
Just to back this up with a study – 92% of people will trust word of mouth referrals by their family and friends over ANY other advertising source (as per this Nielsen study).
For some added context: a real life example: You’re asking around where’s somewhere nice to go for dinner and even though online reviews have some pull, you will more often than not end up going where your mum/bestie/cousin told you was a great restaurant. Amiright?
What networking group am I in?
I have been on a huge personal development journey since starting my clothing business). In fact, that has been my favourite part of owning a start-up (and is another entire blog all in itself).
I’ve learnt so much about who I am and have grown enormously as a person, which I love. I owe most of this growth to the wonderful women I’ve met through Fusion Biz Babes, a local women’s networking group. I was so lucky to stumble upon this start-up when I too, was starting up. Ash, the owner is all about bringing women together in a supportive and fun environment minus the schmoozy, salesy vibe.
And as I move on from the clothing, to something new and exciting (of which I’m still ironing out the details). There was a period where I wondered whether I needed to still stay in a business networking group, whether I ‘belonged’… I mean, I was in limbo and unsure of what was to come. I was feeling a little lost.
When I broke it down though, the best place to go when feeling a little lost, is to a place that inspires and motivates.
I decided there was just no way I could leave. What better opportunity to decide what was to come than to drink up all the inspo and goodness from my likeminded women?
All the opportunities to grow, the business tips and mostly, the friendships meant I was never leaving #bizbabeforlife
So, what are you waiting for? Get networking!
If you are keen to take things up a notch in your biz, then get yourself out there! Remember, amazing things never come from inside comfort zones.
And sure, you could pimp yourself out to all the groups, if that’s your thing. But, in my humble opinion, it’s better if you do find your ‘tribe’ (I know some people HATE that word… I am not one of them) and love them hard.