While we all appreciate that a successful outcome of business networking is the referral of new business, what we talk about less is the impact networking has on those attending, the organisations they represent and the connection between a growing number of referrals and the development of your business through attending networking events.
Networking is a great way to challenge your business and transform the way you work through exposure to new ideas and points of view.
The benefits of working within a community
Networking groups create a community. Each person attending brings their own experiences, values and insights, each adding their perspective to the groups they attend. Every person at the networking group not only contributes to it but also takes from it – perspectives, ideas, innovations and learning – which in turn influences their own thinking.
This community connection is the key to challenging businesses and individuals to grow, as each attends with a shared purpose, to develop their business and learn from each other.
Opportunities for growth
There are many ways in which networking can promote business growth and everybody takes their own approach, but some elements are common to all successful networking groups:
- Challenging business direction: Being connected to a network specific to your industry, or even simply being connected to more businesses, puts you in contact with thought leaders, trends, innovations, and market insights. This exposure forces you to assess and question what you are currently doing and how, your approach and strategy and whether they stand the test of time as the world around you changes. Such valuable information encourages you to hold a mirror to your own business.
- Benchmarking: Being more closely connected to business owners and businesses provides insights you’re unlikely to find so freely available elsewhere. This offers a good understanding of how others are doing and what they are doing, acting as a useful benchmark for your own business and an understanding of opportunities for growth.
- Improving your brand: Talking about your business regularly in networking groups makes you reflect on your own business brand. How do you talk about your business to others? What are the important messages you want to share? How do you define your unique selling points? How you talk about your product and services will evolve as you hear yourself telling your story, see people’s reactions to it and answer their questions.
- Developing mentoring: When you are part of a network you have more opportunities to find good mentors who challenge your thinking and help you explore avenues you wouldn’t have thought of, or perhaps didn’t have the confidence to try alone. This works both ways, when you’re mentoring others, there’s still lots you can learn about yourself while developing an empathy for others and learning through problem solving with them. It challenges how you contribute as part of a community which in turn has a positive impact on how you look at your business as part of a larger group and the benefits it reaps from supporting community growth
Taking your business further
Networking presents business opportunities far beyond new business leads, although these are reason enough for many to network. The connections, interactions and relationship-building that networking provides enables businesses to challenge themselves to grow in ways they wouldn’t have predicted.
Being in an environment in which everyone is looking to grow challenges you to keep pace with your peers. As an effective network evolves, so do the new opportunities for its members. They are inspired by those around them and, as their confidence grows, they make big decisions that often seem harder when made in isolation without a sense of the wider business community.
Business referrals happen through networking, not just because you meet new people, but because networking improves your business, and you can add value to others. You get the referrals because networking is a growing experience.