Business networking – we’ve all heard of it. Who hasn’t been on the receiving end of clichéd sayings like ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’?
Most of us have heard it enough times to be sick of the concept altogether. Yes, we all know business networking is a ‘Big Deal’, but why? How does a person get started with networking? How do you know who to network with, and when and how can you tell if a networking opportunity is going to help you or waste your time?
Working closely with budding and established business owners through StartUp Kickstart and Snowed Under Solutions, these questions are raised all the time and it is evident there is a skewed perception of what business networking entails.
Many scoff at networking, dismissing it as manipulative – using others to become more successful. Others believe networking is for the Donald Trumps of the world – those born into wealth and privilege who can use money and social clout to sway others to their will. Networking is neither of those.
As the founder of StartUp KickStart and Snowed Under Solutions, I firmly believe the heart of business networking is support. It can be a valuable tool that supports you personally and in your business while helping others, and you don’t need to check your integrity at the door.
Networking is a symbiotic relationship that works very well if you’re genuine in your relationships and your connections with people.
Of course, all networking is not created equal. Here are some of the biggest myths entrepreneurs believe when using networking support to kick start their business:
Myth #1 – Any networking is good networking
Be selective when choosing who to network with. Networking opportunities abound, but not all have a strong support purpose at heart, and some even act as ways to hit up business owners for money through membership fees and other dubious activities.
You need to be discerning when it comes to networking groups. Keep your eyes and ears open and if it doesn’t feel supportive, walk away and don’t waste your time or energy. Never feel pressured to sign up or join.
Also, it’s imperitive to be clear as to why you are networking: Are you seeking business connections or advice? Are you looking for a clear undertanding of your ideal customer’s wants, needs and problems? Do you need emotional support from likeminded people?
Myth #2 – The more networking, the merrier
If you attend every networking event you will be drained of time, energy and goodwill. You need to work out what channels support you in the way you need to be, so you are then in a position to help others.
Research supports this where the vast majority of SMEs are quick to join social media platforms for networking purposes. However, less than a third actually have a strategic engagement strategy in place allowing them to strategically network through the platforms most suited to their business, at the right time, place and with the right message.
Myth #3 – Only network in areas I am strong in
Business owners should use networking to step outside their comfort zone. This can provide new insights, connections and information, strenghtening the areas you are most nervous about. By doing this you can take your business to the next level.
It can pay off handsomely to extend yourself and network in areas you aren’t very confident in, and the face-to-face nature of networking is likely to get you further than an email or phone call ever will.
Hubspot has shown that with business networking, most people feel they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person meetings and conferences, and they are essential for long-term relationships.
After debunking these three common networking myths, you are probably itching to start building a strong support system for your new business. Just remember to be selective, strategic and sincere when you do it.
Rebecca Collett is the Founder and Managing Director of StartUp KickStart – a brilliant set of affordable do-it-yourself step by step guides that help budding entrepreneurs crystallise their passion, assess their business viability and then launch with maximum impact and minimal cost.