Since the rise of the industrial revolution, there has been a need for businesses to build trust with one another. While networking has certainly developed from the early days of trusting your recently spun cotton to a reliable sea captain, the basic principles of trust, respect and mutual benefit remain much the same. Formalized business networking came to the forefront in the 1970s and 80s, and continues to thrive and evolve with the digital age.
Networking, in its base form, can be of benefit to just about everyone. Jobseekers, businesses, sole traders, and even everyday people who are looking for a reliable plumber. Chatting with other parents during school pick-up can be a form of networking. As can chatting to fellow dog owners at the dog park. Any time you can gently promote your business and form a personal connection with a potential customer or referrer is a type of networking.
So why is networking so powerful? It’s no secret that you’re more likely to use or recommend a service or product that has provided you with a positive experience. In a similar way, you are more likely to take the recommendation of a friend, family member, or trusted colleague over that of a paid promotion. Networking allows you to generate that personal connection and give your elevator pitch to others who, as the result of that face-to-face contact, are very likely to remember you next time they need your service (or recommend you to someone else who does).
Business networking events take your chats at the dog park to a more targeted audience of fellow business owners. Beyond just generating future customers, business networking gives you the chance to connect with others who have a wealth of experience and business knowledge. Making mistakes is a great way to learn, but learning from other people’s mistakes is far less painful! And you might find that you can offer some words of wisdom to others along the way as well.
There is a myriad of different business networking events and organizations out there, the trick is to find the ones that suit you. By trying a few different options, you’re sure to find a networking event that is more good fun than hard work. While some might prefer the idea of strict routines and weekly meetings, often more casual events can be beneficial as personal connections feel far more organic and genuine, which can ultimately lead to more referrals and allow you to form stronger business relationships.
If you’re naturally shy and introverted you might feel a bit out of your comfort zone at first, but a well-organized event will anticipate that not all of us have the same levels of confidence and help you through those initial feelings of insecurity. So, go on - if you truly believe in yourself and your business, grab your business cards and give networking a go.