Running a company is stressful and overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. However, networking can be an effective way to share ideas, build a support system, and boost your personal and business development.
In this post, one of the UK’s leading company formation agents Rapid Formations explores the main advantages of networking for small business owners. They also share useful tips on how to find your first networking event and how to overcome common initial barriers.
Get your brand name out there
Getting your brand name out there is one of the biggest advantages of networking.
As a business owner, you’ll know that one of the vital but trickiest steps to growing your brand is establishing a credible reputation, and networking can be an effective way of getting your brand on the map.
For SMEs, the competition can be fierce. The UK private sector is made up of over 99% of small and medium-sized enterprises of small and medium-sized enterprises, so depending on your market, you could be entering intense congestion.
This can make it incredibly difficult to get your brand noticed over other players already in the ring. However, consistent networking can help you meet the right people to spread the word about your new business. This could be prospective investors, new customers, or simply like-minded business owners.
Networking also helps put a face to the name, which boosts your brand’s visibility and makes it more memorable. That way, the more events you attend, the easier it’ll become for others to recognise you and your business.
Once you start networking, try to keep up your momentum and attend events regularly. This will help keep conversations going, strengthen your relationships with other entrepreneurs, and keep your brand active and relevant.
Connect with like-minded people
Another benefit of networking is getting to connect with other entrepreneurs. You’ll meet other people with similar values and aspirations, which can have a multitude of positive effects on your business growth.
This can be an excellent way to exchange ideas and receive business guidance and advice from others. Likewise, you can share your own wisdom and expertise with other business owners who might need some support.
Building these meaningful connections with other professionals can also help boost your positivity, drive, and motivation – just some of the fundamental elements of growing a successful business.
Find new opportunities
In the early stages of running a business, new opportunities are paramount, and attending networking events can help you open plenty of doors. For example, research has found that the return of in-person trade shows has helped 70% of businesses secure new leads.
In a post-pandemic business world, this is a very encouraging statistic, but the potential to boost sales is just one of the many prospects that you can find through networking. You could also find:
- New talent to expand your team
- New investors to boost funding and grow your company
- Future collaborations with other entrepreneurs
- Educational recommendations to boost your knowledge and professional growth
Learn from others
Educational opportunities are another significant benefit of small business networking. These events offer great resources to help you increase your business IQ and enhance your knowledge and skills in your business area.
Traditional learning methods like reading and research are great, but there are many educational elements from social interaction that you could be missing. By networking with other business professionals, you can meet industry experts and new perspectives to open up your educational horizons.
One of the most valuable tools for business owners is knowledge, so try to find wins where possible – even if they’re small, they might turn out to be a huge advantage later down the line.
Boost your confidence
Networking is a great way to improve your overall confidence. This could be career, industry, or social confidence.
One of the biggest confidence boots comes from focusing on your strengths. As you connect with people and pitch your brand, stick to what you know and showcase your unique skills and expertise. As you keep networking and learning, you’ll build resilience and enhance your professional reputation.
If you’re looking to improve your social confidence, networking can be a huge help here, too. Whether it’s an in-person or virtual event, you’ll need to come out of your comfort zone a little.
Pushing these boundaries will make it easier to navigate new interactions. In turn, this will make it easier to attend future events, build meaningful connections, and develop strong social skills.
Virtual or in-person networking?
You can network both online and in person, but which one is right for you?
Particularly in a post-pandemic world, online networking is very common – and a popular choice. Around 40% of people engage in virtual networking than face-to-face events.
As a business owner, your calendar will be very busy, but virtual networking can make it easier to find the time to interact with others. It also eliminates the need to travel to venues, it saves you money, and it makes it easier to network from the comfort of your own home.
However, if you find it easier to connect with people face-to-face, then physical networking might be the better option.
Top tips for your first networking event
If you’re completely new to networking, it can be daunting and difficult to know where to start. Here are our top tips for approaching your first event:
Streamline your search
There are countless networking opportunities all over the country – both online and in person. The easiest way to narrow down your search is to look for local events that are relevant to your industry. Once you’re a little more familiar with them, you can expand your reach.
Some of the most popular networking sites that can help you find your first event are:
- British Chambers of Commerce
- Small Business Britain
- Enterprise Nation
- Eventbrite (This one is broad but well-known and highly rated. It’s also useful for hosting your own events when you’re ready!)
The main purpose of networking is to connect with people. If this is your first event, here are a few social expectations that might help:
- Authenticity – This goes a long way in a professional setting. Being your genuine self will help people understand you and the story behind your business, giving them a chance to truly connect with you and what you do.
- Pitching your business – If the opportunity arises to pitch your business, try to be as clear and concise as possible – the more you tell them, the harder it’ll be for them to remember it.
Lead with who you are and what you do, then elaborate on why you’re passionate about your company/industry.
- Being approachable – While looking approachable may be tricky for some, don’t forget that you (and everyone else) are there to connect with others, so try to be as open-minded and inviting as you can to get conversations started.
- Learn and grow – As mentioned earlier, networking isn’t all about selling. If it doesn’t naturally fit into a conversation, don’t force it.
Finding common grounds and effective relationships are long-term wins in this case.
- Show support – Remember that everyone is there for the same reasons, so if you’re looking for connections and support, try to offer the same to others.
Building an encouraging and comfortable community is a great way for small business owners to share their knowledge and support each other.
Boosting brand awareness, making meaningful connections, and growing your confidence are just some of the key ways that networking can benefit you and your business.
Don’t forget that some events may feel more useful than others, but every experience is a learning curve, so you should try to network as much as you can. By missing networking events or not networking at all, you could be limiting your growth potential.