How Joining A Networking Group Can Help Your Business
With social media ruling the day, it may seem networking groups have gone out of style when in actuality, joining one can have many benefits for you and your small business -- from peer support and business advice to opportunities for more customers.
Making real connections to people – and forging relationships, even at acquaintance levels, are still important to doing business.
The Value of a Peer Group
If you’re among the millions of small business owners who are solopreneurs or have just a few employees, you get used to figuring stuff out on your own.
But wouldn’t it be nice to have a peer group occasionally to talk to – you know other small business owners or entrepreneurs who get it? Someone who understands what it’s like to run a business?
Joining a networking group puts you in the middle of some of those like-minded people, setting you up for an opportunity to tap other people’s skills, talents and experience, and enjoy some comradery.
Look into industry and local councils in your area or digital groups – it could be as simple as going to a nearby Chamber of Commerce event or business peer groups in your field. Find something you can attend face-to-face if possible, but an online networking group is a good place to start.
Entrepreneur George Morris, cofounder of the digital agency Imulus, believes in the value of peer support and interaction, so much so he started his own group, The OneFifty, a private community for “seasoned” entrepreneurs.
“We believe entrepreneurs learn far more from each other, rather than going it alone,” he says on The OneFifty website. “That is why we created a facilitated community of entrepreneurs to act as a sounding board to support you and push you a bit further.”
Value of Business Relationships
Having like-minded people available on a regular basis to bounce ideas off or discuss your challenges is a valuable asset to have on your side, but it goes both ways – there are great rewards when you help others along the networking path.
“If you want to achieve any goal, you need other people to help you do it -- and your chances for success are far greater if you can help other people achieve their goals as well,” says Judy Robinett in her book How To Be A Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule For Turning Your Business Network into Profits.
In business and in life, she says, relationships are the “true power grid” of getting things done effectively. Robinett calls your contacts and connections your most valuable assets, and shares a quote from GE legend Jack Welch, “Forget the MBA, learn to network.”
Relationships Still Rule
Even in a tech-driven world, good old-fashioned connections with people – in the form of relationships – continue to drive business and commerce. Becoming part of a networking group helps you build new connections beyond your comfort zone and has real payoffs.
“Great relationships are the difference between success and failure in business,” writes Patrick Galvin in his book The Connector’s Way: A Story About Building Business One Relationship At a Time.
The consulting company he cofounded, The Galvanizing Group, focuses on helping companies “galvanize repeat and referred business through better relationships.”
Networking Can Lead To New Customers
Networking groups can be an important tool when it comes to building your customer base, especially if you’re just starting out. With your new connections, you’re learning about business trends and new target audiences.
SCORE, which offers entrepreneurs mentoring, workshops and educational resources, says networking is an important marketing tool for businesses at any stage.
“You may meet people who want to buy what you sell — or, more likely, you'll meet people who know people who want to buy what you sell,” advises SCORE, a longtime resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Referrals are one of the top sources of new business, and by networking, you'll naturally obtain more of them.”
Be Strategic About Networking
There’s real value in making connections with business owners who are similar to you, by industry or stage in business, but it’s also a good idea to work on building a diverse network.
Most importantly, use networking groups to develop authentic connections. It’s about quality over quantity, Robinett says.
She quotes Kay Koplowitz, the founder of the USA Network, “You have to develop a human capital network… people with whom you can be very open. ...Who will give you their best advice. And you like doing the same thing for them.”