My family had lived in the same farming community for generations. I have worked for the same company for over 20 years. I had never seen the need to go to ‘networking events’ in fact I don’t even think I was aware it was a thing.
That all changed when my family decided we were ready for a new adventure and moved from the UK to beautiful Omokoroa. That adventure allowed me to start my own business. Suddenly, I was in a new country, trying to establish a new business in a new industry… so networking became a very frequent occurrence!
I have been to so many different events, up and down New Zealand. From in-person to online. From industry-specific events, local business chambers, business referrals focussed and even golf themed.
After five years of walking into rooms of strangers, here are my thoughts on the key benefits of networking.
#1. New business opportunities
Let’s be honest for many people this is the first thing they think a networking event is all about. Of course, it presents an opportunity to find new clients who may need your product or service. However, networking can be so much more. I strongly believe those that just want to pounce on people and sell, before moving on to their next target will have very limited success. In my experience, networking does lead to new business opportunities, just don’t make it the first and only thing you concentrate on.
#2. Personal and professional development
Business networking is a great opportunity to practice the essential skills of connecting with others. It allows you to learn about current business trends and the real needs of your ideal clients as well as talk about how you can help people. At some stage, you will inevitably be asked what you do and being able to answer this clearly and succinctly in a way that is meaningful to others is a great skill for anyone in business.
It’s also an opportunity to pick up new skills and learn about new technologies, how people are using them, and what is working for other business owners.
#3. Brand awareness
I have already warned about trying to focus on selling. However, networking events are a great way to raise awareness of your brand. Depending on the type of event, you may get an opportunity to talk about your business to the group. There could be opportunities to feature your logo or website on the group’s website. There is always the opportunity to leverage this further on social media too. Take a photo at the event, pop it in a post, share what you learnt at the event and tag in some of the people you met. They will often do the same, raising awareness of your brand even further.
Business networking has widened my view so much. I have become aware of other businesses and industries that I just did not know existed. When we take the time to listen and learn from others so many opportunities can arise. You may find other business owners who share a similar audience to you but offer different and maybe complementary solutions. There could be opportunities to benefit from one another’s network, co-create content, or even open up new markets through offering a combined solution.
#5. Support and encouragement
Being in business can be tough. As a business owner, there are many things that can happen that others would not understand. Through business networking, I have met many people who have become great friends. Providing an understanding ear when the unexpected has happened, encouraging new initiatives, or sharing their advice on why things might not be working.
In summary, business networking is not just for new businesses. Networking goes far beyond just who is in the room. Go into it with the same passion to learn about other businesses as you have for promoting your own and the opportunities are endless.
Simon Fowler is the director of The Colour Code. They work with individuals and teams to help improve communication, build high-performing teams, enhance leadership, and forge strong client relationships. For more information, visit the website.