To help you expand your small business through effective networking, we’ve gathered insights from 20 successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. From prioritizing positive relationships to joining coworking spaces, discover the top networking tips that have helped these professionals grow their businesses.
Prioritize Positive Relationships
Networking is crucial to growing a small business, but it can often feel sleazy and aggressive. That’s why I try to put myself out there without being pushy. People know who I am and what I do.
I’d like to think my company has a positive reputation in the industry. But I always prioritize building positive relationships with people over trying to turn my network into clients. People like working with businesses that they have a good connection with, and that means being known for quality work and quality people. If you build good personal relationships, business relationships will follow.
Connect with Universities and Colleges
Having been involved in numerous small businesses, I’ve found that one of the most invaluable networking tips is to reach out to your local university or college.
By connecting with a professor or student group, you can create a beneficial relationship for both parties. For instance, you might be able to offer employment opportunities for students looking to gain work experience, while they could provide insight into current technological trends and business management strategies. The symbiotic relationship helps bridge the generation gap between older and younger professionals, providing valuable support for those seeking guidance on their hard-earned knowledge.
Furthermore, this type of arrangement benefits your business by boosting brand awareness with the population younger than 35 that are currently attending institutions of higher learning.
Invest Time into Your Social Life
Pay attention to the advantages of investing time into your social life as a business owner. You’d be surprised how many pivotal business deals are conducted during social gatherings or among strong friendships. Always make time to meet up with friends and gather for activities; you never know whose hand you might end up shaking.
Grow the Brand Through Community Outreach
Our company was created for two reasons: to offer high-quality items for the outdoor enthusiast at a lower cost and to give back to wounded military veterans. The cause we fight for attracts a lot of positive attention for us. That’s not why we do it, but we do appreciate it.
And we do try to make products that a lot of military veterans and their families and friends would enjoy and put to great use. So we’ve established a robust network among those military veterans and their families. That’s how we’ve grown our brand and that’s how we’ve been able to establish a loyal customer base. Our community outreach has helped us attain a lot of our sales goals.
Build Connections Through Blogging
Starting a blog not only helps with acquiring customers but can be a helpful tool to connect with other businesses whether they are similar or not.
In my business, I find blogging to be a great way of building a real estate community which makes it easier to connect with more locals. You end up learning more about the properties in your area and also create connections with other agents to be able to share stories and insights.
Blogging about your experiences helps to also make you much more personable and breaks down a lot of barriers when it comes to building strong relationships with clients.
Participate in Industry Events
I can say that regularly participating in industry events is one networking piece of advice that has aided the expansion of our company. We have developed a robust network by forming connections, learning more about the sector, imparting knowledge, and using social media. This has made it possible to forge new alliances, collaborations, and opportunities.
The ability to actively participate in face-to-face encounters and keep abreast of industry trends has been crucial for building credibility and attracting customers. This advice is a great way to help any small business flourish.
Share Valuable Information and Resources
One of the best networking tips that has helped me grow my small business is sharing valuable information, such as resources, introductions to relevant people, and even job opportunities. This strategy has not only enabled me to build connections but also maintain them.
By sharing valuable information, I was able to build a reputation as someone who is supportive and trustworthy. In return, many people were willing to reciprocate and support my business.
Since networking is a two-way street, I’m never afraid to ask for advice. If I believe someone can help me grow my business, I always reach out to them while also showing a willingness to offer support whenever they need it.
Leverage Social Media for Growth
Social media, particularly LinkedIn, has been instrumental in the growth of our small business. My two co-founders and I have been building our personal brands on social media for a couple of years, and almost all of our clients have at one point or another seen our posts and engaged with them.
Select Relevant Networking Events
If you’re looking to make the most out of networking events, it’s important to choose the right ones. Make sure you attend events that are relevant to your business and attract the type of people you want to connect with.
Try to find professionals who share similar interests or have valuable knowledge and resources. By doing this, you’ll have a better chance of building meaningful relationships that could lead to exciting collaborations and opportunities down the road.
Follow Up After Industry Gatherings
One networking tip that has greatly helped grow my small business is to actively seek out and attend industry-related events, conferences, and meetups. These gatherings provide valuable opportunities to connect with like-minded professionals, potential clients, and industry influencers.
To make the most of these events, I approach them with a clear objective in mind, such as expanding my professional network, seeking partnerships, or generating leads. I make an effort to engage in meaningful conversations, actively listen, and exchange business cards or contact information with the people I have synergy with.
Following up afterward is also crucial. Generally, I will send a request to connect on LinkedIn with a personalized message attached. If they accept, they’ll become part of my professional digital network and be reminded of our interaction every time they see a post I share. For slow-burning B2B sales, keeping your business in the back of their mind is important.
Cultivate Authentic Connections
Networking is a crucial aspect of growing a small business, and one tip that has been instrumental in my success is focusing on building genuine relationships. Instead of approaching networking solely with the intention of securing immediate business, I prioritize establishing authentic connections and providing value to others.
By taking the time to understand individuals’ needs, challenges, and aspirations, I can offer relevant advice, resources, or introductions that genuinely benefit them. This approach cultivates trust and goodwill, leading to long-term relationships that often result in referrals and new business opportunities.
Remember, networking is not just about what others can do for you, but also what you can do for them. By consistently providing value, being genuine, and fostering meaningful connections, your small business can thrive through a supportive network of individuals who trust and believe in you.
Build Meaningful LinkedIn Interactions
One networking tip that has been incredibly beneficial for my small business is to genuinely engage with people on LinkedIn. Instead of just hitting “like” or “connect,” I make it a point to leave thoughtful comments on their posts. This sparks conversation, helps me get noticed and remembered, and shows that I’m genuinely interested in their thoughts and ideas.
People appreciate when their content receives thoughtful responses. It initiates meaningful dialogue, and these deeper interactions can lead to stronger professional relationships. The connections I’ve built through this approach have led to collaborations, partnerships, and opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Research Trends for Networking
Monitoring trends and using them is one strategic tip to expand your business network. It works best when you engage with businesses in your area of interest and keep them informed about trends in your sector.
Be prepared to easily communicate the trends with others and ask questions on different forums and discussion groups to gain relevant information. This will help you to network and cultivate meaningful business relationships with like-minded people.
Embrace Community Activities
Engaging in community activities without expecting anything in return has been a powerful networking strategy that has significantly contributed to the growth of my small business. Being an active participant in local events and initiatives, I’ve had the chance to mingle with diverse individuals and forge meaningful connections.
These interactions have catalyzed expanding my professional network and gaining exposure within the community. The genuine relationships I’ve established through volunteering have helped raise awareness about my business and led to lucrative collaborations and valuable word-of-mouth recommendations.
The ripple effect of community involvement has undoubtedly played a vital role in the continuous success of my business.
Collaborate with Complementary Businesses
One networking tip that has really helped us grow is partnering with complementary businesses. We found companies that offer products or services that go well with ours. Then we started teaming up on joint projects. This gave us a chance to reach their customers, and they could reach ours. It was like we doubled our audience without spending extra on advertising.
By doing this, we helped each other grow. This strategy of collaboration not only helped us reach more people but also added more value for our customers. Working together, we all win.
To find the best complementary business, start by fully understanding your own business. What do you offer, and who are your customers? Next, consider what other services or products these customers might need. You can do research online or ask your customers. Find a business that offers such products and aligns with your values. It’s all about finding the right fit for you!
Partner with Industry Leaders
I’d say partnering with industry leaders has helped us most in terms of business growth from networking. Forming a connection with industry leaders already established in the space can provide support and insights that might take a long time to figure out on our own.
Plus, having a partnership with them helps establish credibility and increases brand awareness. So, whenever possible, try to partner up with experts to thrive your small business growth.
Utilize LinkedIn for Purposeful Networking
As a coach, networking on LinkedIn has been a game-changer for me.
I generated ~£25,000 in business in three months by regularly reaching out to new connections and starting conversations. The trick is not to try to sell. Be curious about their business, find out what they’re about. Ask about their goals and challenges. Then, if it FEELS right, offer to help them.
Most people will be happy to jump on a call at this point. From there, you can establish authority and credibility. I was booking in several calls a day, which is heavy going but worth the effort if you want to grow.
Remember: LinkedIn is a networking platform. We are there to do business. The art is doing it gently, with purpose, and by leading with value.
Network Through LunchClub
A game-changing networking tip for growing my small business has been utilizing LunchClub. It’s like a secret weapon for making meaningful connections. This platform sets up one-on-one virtual meetings with folks who share your interests or can help you professionally.
I’ve met some seriously cool people through it, and these connections have helped open new doors for my business. Remember, in business, it’s not just what you know, but who you know. So, get networking with LunchClub!
Foster Local Connections
One networking strategy that has significantly grown our small solar energy systems business is fostering community connections through sponsoring local events. Our experience tells us that the most genuine networking opportunities often stem from community involvement.
A memorable instance of this was when we sponsored a local charity run last year. Not only did we get our name out there, but we were also able to mingle with attendees, exchange contact information, and discuss our business offerings in a casual setting. This interaction facilitated the formation of connections that we wouldn’t have made in a traditional networking event.
In fact, the relationships we built that day have led to various collaborative projects and customer referrals over the year. The reciprocity of giving back to our community while fostering valuable business relationships has truly become our networking superpower.
Join Coworking Spaces
Your local coworking space can be the perfect place for networking. Every city has them, and they’re great places for workers to set up and do whatever they need to do.
Coworking spaces are an office for remote workers and nomads who need some sort of office to go to when they are working. For some, the habit of working in an office is tough to break, and we can’t be as productive as we used to be when just working from our living room or kitchen.
Coworking spaces can also be great for networking. You can meet new people, talk about work, get to know them personally, and discuss ways of collaborating. You can meet someone at a coworking space that changes your entire professional trajectory. You could also meet someone in passing that connects you with someone who needs work done a year later, simply because you met them and had the chance to leave a positive impression.
Take a look in your area for coworking spaces (or shared workspaces) to set up.
Brett Farmiloe is the founder of Terkel, a Q&A platform that connects brands with expert insights.