Whether you already run your own business, or you’re thinking about setting up on your own, having a large and supportive network is key to success.
A good network gives you so much. From being able to call on the advice and experience of others who might have faced – and overcome – a similar situation to yours, through to potential business opportunities and simply knowing there is someone else out there who knows what you’re going through, a strong network can really help you build a successful business.
We’re not all social butterflies, though, and networking is not something that comes easy to many people. So what are the best ways to build a strong, supportive business network?
Attending networking events
A quick Google should lead you to a range of organised networking events near you. Try searching either by your industry or specialism. If you live anywhere near a decent-sized city, you shouldn’t be short of options.
Have a look at the type of people attending your chosen event and think about the kind of people you’d most like to network with. Work out your own business’s pitch well before you arrive, too, giving you time to practise it and feel at ease with how you talk about your business.
Just be aware that many networking events happen outside of work hours, so you’ll often face either an early start or a late finish. So you might need to build some flexibility into your schedule.
Social media can be a great way to build a network, especially if you’re nervous about speaking to a room full of strangers.
The key is to be professional and consistent across your chosen channels. Some businesses are more suited to Instagram or Facebook. Others find success with a like-minded crew on Twitter. And LinkedIn continues to grow, despite its relatively ‘un-cool’ reputation, into a thriving place for networking and business opportunities.
Pick your favourite and stick at it. You won’t get results overnight, but in time you will see your network growing. It’s also increasingly common for social media communities to arrange real-life meet-ups – don’t miss them!
Attending conferences and business events
Designated networking events are not the only in-person events that are great for networking. Does your industry hold dedicated conferences or business events? Get yourself a ticket and head down, because you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by people sharing the same experiences as you.
In this more relaxed environment, you won’t be expected to make a 60-second pitch about your business or what you can offer other members. Instead, you can focus on building genuine connections with peers and other industry figures in a more informal setting.
Building a strong network is one of the most useful things any entrepreneur can do. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the payoffs can be significant. Keep at it!
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