What is networking and how can it help your business?
Man is a social being, and an entrepreneur, especially one leading a startup, can hardly be an exception to this rule. Doing what is called “business networking” in the jargon is, in fact, indispensable in order to succeed in achieving the coveted success. Recall the words of Reid Hoffman:
“No startup grows alone. Your network can give you the resources, connections and wisdom you need to get your business off the ground.”
Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the importance of building meaningful relationships for your business. Before we understand how these relationships can help your startup, however, let’s define the term “business networking” more precisely.
What does the term networking mean?
The meaning of Business networking refers to the ability to create and develop long-term professional contacts and relationships based on mutual trust and the (equally mutual) exchange of information and expertise. Help among network members is aimed at achieving common goals.
Networking is not only about new contacts: you must keep in mind that, in building and developing relationships useful for business purposes, you must proceed, in fact, both in the direction of the people you would like to know and contact and in the direction of the people you already know. Among the latter you must identify relationships to maintain and strengthen.
How does networking help your business?
The goals behind business networking are many: prominent among them are the possibility of gaining visibility and opening new doors useful for business growth. Alongside visibility, a decisive role is played by credibility: each exchange of ideas, expertise and information represents a valuable opportunity to prove that you are worth the interlocutor’s trust.
For a startup, this is even more important: you have to consider that so many people love to help those who are taking their first steps, so it is crucial to network and form relationships as soon as possible, proving that you deserve this help.
Networking as an investment for the future
It is important for you to be clear in your mind that the benefits of business networking do not always translate into concrete benefits that you can enjoy immediately after meeting with your interlocutor: in fact, networking often represents an investment in the future since it helps to keep your mind open about new business opportunities and meetings with people potentially relevant to the business (as future customers, suppliers or investors, but also with a view to future new hires).
Not only that: networking fosters the exchange of skills, techniques and best practices and, in this way, ensures access to valuable information for business growth and development, not only in the immediate but also (and especially) in the future.
How to network effectively
It is now time to translate what has been said so far into practical terms and understand, concretely, how to do networking. In practice, doing Business networking means attending industry events and trade fairs, conferences and business lunches, but technological innovation has greatly increased the range of options available to us, flanking in-person events with many other “offline” meeting opportunities, such as video calls.
To network effectively, you need to practice a few tricks: first, don’t be shy and work on your presentation. In this last regard, remember to be specific and focus on a specific aspect of your startup (the one that is most useful in capturing your interlocutor’s attention and interest). Dress and behave professionally but aim to create, build and develop relationships, not to sell you and your products or services.
Don’t forget that business networking consists of a mutual exchange: listen carefully to your stakeholders because, in this way, you can identify shared interests and goals and find out how you can be useful to others.
Earlier we talked about the importance of nurturing relationships over time: a crucial expedient in this regard is the so-called follow-up. Today, thanks to e-mail, messaging apps and social networks, there are many quick and easy ways to reawaken attention to a previous encounter.
The importance of a strong corporate identity
Everyone who starts a startup believes, rightly or wrongly, that they have come up with a fantastic and revolutionary idea; however, they often fail to effectively communicate this idea to their audience.
We have already mentioned the importance of preparing an effective presentation, but a further clarification is necessary: remember that every communication or information that emerges in moments of interaction with a brand is part of its corporate identity. The latter includes visual elements such as logos, colors etc. but also and especially deeper aspects such as the mission, vision, values, the business model and the Unique Selling Proposition.
Being clear about your corporate identity will help you communicate it more effectively and thus make it more recognizable and memorable whenever you find yourself doing Business networking.