In a small business, networking involves the owner getting out into the business community and meeting people, whether that be in person or online chat forums or groups, such as LinkedIn. In person interactions can take place at organized conferences and trade shows, social events, or even on the tennis court or golf course. The goal of networking is to continually expand the number of business contacts you have. Although it is important for a business owner to focus on the challenges of running his company, participating in the business community yields substantial benefits that are well worth the time devoted to networking
Networking is an effective way to meet prospective customers in an informal environment. The business owner doesn’t make a sales pitch so much as introduce himself and his company to the prospect. The goal is to exchange contact information and open an avenue for further discussion. You may also meet owners of other companies who are interested in discussing possible joint ventures such as marketing each other’s products or services. In this less formal meeting environment, you can build a positive relationship with the other business owners before starting serious negotiations.
A small-business owner has to be skilled in various functions of running a business, such as finance, product development, sales and marketing, and long-range planning. He should strive to build his skills as his company grows. An owner may have a gap in knowledge or experience, such as not understanding how the Internet can be used to market products or services. Networking with people who have such skills will allow him to tap into their knowledge and experience. By learning from them, he can become more effective at leading and expanding his company.
Homeowners know to ask their neighbours for recommendations about which home-repair services are reliable. The same process works in business. Suppose you are thinking about upgrading your computer system. If you remember meeting another business owner at a networking event who recently upgraded his company’s system, you can find out what service provider he used and whether he recommends that provider. In turn people will use your company for information and services that you recommend. It’s a win-win situation.
Don’t be afraid to attend networking events, most people are all there for the same reason to expand their customer base and help each other.
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