The more business owners I meet, the more I recognise that what makes businesses successful is an understanding of the benefits of being involved in business networks. Many soloists talk about networking but not all walk their talk.
Being in business is not just about supplying services or products, it’s also about the marketing, the PR and everything else that helps to make connections. It is important to get to know people and let others know what you have to offer. We are the best salespeople for our businesses and no-one knows what we’re about like we do.
I encourage those I meet at networking events and in business forums to explore what other business networks they can find that might introduce them to their target audience and/or introduce them to peers who can teach them more about running their business. However, many join only one networking group (online or offline) and then expect that group or organisation to be the answer to all their needs. That is often not the case.
Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, talks about this very thing. He tells us that there are seven different types of business networks and advises that business people should belong to at least three different types. This includes:
- Industry based groups for learning from your peers and developing your skills;
- gender based groups;
- referral based groups such as BNI, Leads Club, Rotary and Chambers of Commerce; and
- charity based groups (Lions, Rotary).
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Each business network group has its own culture and something of value to add to your experiences as a soloist.
Belonging to several local face-to-face business networks and a good number of online networks has given me many opportunities and I’ve met some interesting people, including some who have been of great value to my business.
Wherever I go I meet potential clients. I would be restricting my opportunities if I didn’t participate in several business networks. I’ve even found joining software discussion forums online valuable as I not only develop my skills further, but I find potential clients from others who are also learning about those programs.
Product launches are another great place to go – if you know that product well, others attending could well be in need of your services!
If you are new to business, don’t underestimate the value of exploring several networking possibilities and don’t overestimate any particular one as providing all the answers for your needs.
And remember that age-old rule – what you give out, you will get back. So getting involved and contributing in some way or another, even assisting the committee or on a registration table, will help put you in the front line and you will get the opportunity to showcase your skills and your wonderful personality.
How can you lose?