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What is business networking?

Networking can be done face-to-face at social events, conferences and through industry associations. All of these will benefit your business.
people connected in lines representing networking
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Networking is about interacting with people and engaging them for mutual benefit. It can help you establish a new business or grow an existing one. You can also use networking as a tool for finding investors, customers, staff, suppliers and business partners with minimal cost to your business.
Networking can be done facn-to-face at social events, conferences and through industry associations. You can also network online, through sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. The more ways you can network, the more your business will benefit.

Types of business networks

Casual contact networks
  • Informal meetings between overlapping professionals who meet to exchange ideas, attend guest presentations and share commonalities e.g. Chamber of Commerce.
Strong contact networks
  • Organisations whose purpose is to help members exchange business referrals
  • These groups meet weekly, typically over lunch or breakfast e.g. Zonta.
Community service networks
  • In the course of giving time and effort to civic causes, you form lasting relationships that broaden and deepen your personal and business networks
  • If you go in not to benefit but to contribute, the social capital you accrue will eventually reward you in other ways and from other directions.
Professional associations
  • Professional association members from one specific type of industry, e.g fitness
  • The primary purpose of a professional association is to exchange information and ideas
  • The goal is tapping into such networks is to join groups that contain your potential clients or target markets
  • Many groups limit their membership to those who have specific industry credentials
  • To generate more income or to give their full members a well-rounded slate of potential vendors, a growing number of associations have created an associate member category, whose members aren’t active in the business or profession for whom the group was formed.
Online/social media networks
  • The ideal use for social media is to build your brand and your credibility with the people you’re connected to by providing value for your connections and followers
  • Whether you’re talking about face-to-face networking or online networking – credibility and relationship building is still critical to the process
  • With social media, the key to success is outlining a strategy that considers the amount of time you can realistically dedicate to your online marketing efforts and being consistent
  • Map out a weekly schedule that outlines specific days and times you’ll spend developing your social media strategy.
Source: Entrepreneur (2019).
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