Whether you have just established your start-up business or have been enterprising for years, connecting and networking with other entrepreneurs is crucial to building a solid foundation for long-standing partnerships.
Some call it business networking but I prefer the terms strategic or tactical networking, and not in the military sense of the words, but rather more in line with pro-engagement. In any case, it is social networking that involves connecting with other business persons as a way to climb the expert ladder and build a reputation for yourself, business, or your brand.
There are numerous factors why networking with like-minded business professionals and entrepreneurs is a smart move. Aside from the obvious, it's generally a quick and often inexpensive way to market your business and promote your offering. Networking can also allow you to maximise the impact of your outreach efforts especially when you have limited resources.
Most entrepreneurs tend to share a similar perspective as far as acknowledging the importance of resource and skills sharing. Therefore, there's a greater probability of reciprocation when you engage, which ultimately can create deeper impressions than other marketing initiatives would otherwise.
Additionally, strategic networking can help establish brand credibility which I think is more essential to business development than actual visibility, particularly in the early stages of growth. Always remember that 9 out of 10 times when people in your network find themselves or become aware of other associates in need of a service you offer, they are likely to bring business to you since they already would have developed trust.
The key here is to ensure that in your interactions you represent yourself and consequently your enterprise in an ethical fashion. Social marketing is at its core a satisfaction-based derivative product of people naturally desiring to make others aware of where to find great value.
When you network with other entrepreneurs and they become aware of your offering, over time and with continuous interaction they will eventually become familiar with it, at which point they can start to feel a deeper association and naturally endorse it. That means if you make the right impressions, it's only a matter of time until you start to see the social proof build up. This allows you to get the word out about your brand in an authentic way.
When you network with other entrepreneurs, you are also opening up possibilities for value exchange. Often you end up mutually taking full advantage of each other's products or services since any deals you make are likely to include personalised and exclusive rates which make your offering more attractive and in turn organically grows your businesses without the need for using expensive and often ineffective marketing or advertising initiatives such as broad-based promotions, which can really affect margins.
Furthermore, networking enables entrepreneurs to exchange ideas with others which can open up gateways to innovation through skills sharing. You may have come across the term collaborative entrepreneurship which is associated with a business model for continuous innovation.
Venturing out and connecting with people from diverse business and personal backgrounds or geographical locations will actually benefit you more than linking up with those you consider confidants.
Keeping channels of communication open may also prevent rivalries or eliminate competition and instead foster a collaborative approach to solving market challenges. There is nothing wrong with healthy competition, but if you can avoid potential escalations which may result in hostile takeovers or simply annihilation, why not opt for working toward mutual benefit?
Of course there's a need to be strategic about your choice of partnerships or networking circles. It's always best to work alongside people you can share common business ethics with. Never underestimate the value of your IP. If you can find mutual grounds for aligning your goals the better, but that doesn't mean you have to only operate within familiar circles. Venturing out and connecting with people from diverse business and personal backgrounds or geographical locations will actually benefit you more than linking up with those you consider confidants.
Most businesses with a strong company culture are built on the back of a bunch of people who share common values, and who over time find ways of developing a vision that's in the interest of helping each other achieve mutual goals. Most entrepreneurs continue to network even after their initial start-up successes because they understand the power of relationships.
In order to grow and diversify, forward-thinking is key. You don't need to be conniving about it, but like in any sustainable venture, business or personal, a lot is dependent on the strength of relationships which can only be validated after enduring the test of time so an investment in relationship building cannot be understated.
Remember, continued networking throughout all stages of enterprising enables the formation of new relationships and unlocks possibilities of gaining new insights to help you stay ahead of the game and most importantly, it can help you secure new resources, partnerships and even customers.