The case for networking
You are a busy person. You have a great deal to get done everyday. It is so easy to get focused on the daily to-do list that the "extras" start flying right out the window. One of those extras can often be the time you spend dedicated to networking.
I was going to write an article on doing networking better, but Jesper Løvendahl already did as good of a job as you can on that. Instead, I want to address those of you who aren't embracing the benefit of a dedicated networking effort. Without further ado, my case for networking:
1. Potential clients and referrals
Say networking to your average business owner, and this is where their head goes. If you are going to invest time in meeting people, ideally they are going to be folks that you can sell your product or service to. Networking can be a great way to meet new clients. Even better, networking can be a great way to meet people who can refer you to many clients.
Depending on your industry, a new customer can cost your business $7, $25, hundreds of dollars (or more) in advertising and marketing. Your time spent in networking, especially considering the long tail that can develop from forming an authentic relationship with others, can make that process much more efficient.
2. Learning about your community or industry
Beyond being a source of direct customers, networking can teach you a great deal. Meeting other professionals can be a great source of education about either your industry or the region in which you are transacting business. Local networking groups can be a great source for other networking opportunities, for discussing situations unique to your location or for learning from the lessons that others have paid the price for in their experience.
3. Resources and services
You are a bright individual, but you cannot do it all. Networking is a great way to meet other enterprising individuals with a different skill set than yourself. You may meet an individual who has skills that would be useful to your customers, but beyond your area of expertise; or even that you may consider hiring down the road. If you are going to invest in a service that you need would you rather start cold calling vendors or have a go to resource that you already have a relationship with and trust?
4. New business opportunities
Another networking perk that can come from folks with a different skill set is the opportunity to partner directly together. You may not be looking for an opportunity, but who isn't at least open to considering a win-win partnership? You never know when that new connection could lead to something incredible.
5. Support and advice
I'm not saying that you need counseling, but running your own business can be tough! You have issues, concerns and dilemmas that you often can't share with others. Your employees don't need to carry this load and often your significant other just doesn't "get it." It can be exceptionally lonely to run your business. Networking with other professionals puts you in relationship with folks who have the same struggles and concerns in a real world setting. The support of those like-minded individuals can provide much needed peace of mind.
6. Practice on your elevator pitch
Most networking opportunities are going to give you the chance to practice your 30 second (or longer) pitch. My experience is that the individuals taking the time out of their day to network are willing to share advice and guidance to help you improve your pitch down the road. The networking event also provides a "safe" group atmosphere to get comfortable sharing what it is that makes your business special.
You can have a successful business without networking, and if you are looking for that next bump to take your organization to the next level; give networking a look. Your commitment will be rewarded!