Relationship building: How it can grow your business
When it comes to business, the old adage ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ comes to mind. So why is it that so many businesses allow their networks to stagnate rather than finding ways to grow?
Whether it’s a lack of time or simply that they don’t know how to, too many businesses are selling themselves short by not networking as they should.
The good news is that it’s now easier to expand your network than ever before. And thanks to the ever-expanding presence of social media, that’s particularly true for SMEs and new start-ups where it’s crucial to reach out.
We’ve created a list of helpful advice for business owners to show you that by taking an active role in networking, you can build quality connections and create a sustainable business.
The benefits of networking
Whatever industry you work in, there are countless advantages to building strong connections. Some of the key benefits of networking include:
Useful advice — If your company is still in its infancy, networking allows you to learn from second-hand experience. By communicating with potential clients or businesses that are one step ahead of you, you’ll gain insights into how others have dealt with challenges similar to those you face and learn how you can progress.
Raising your profile — By actively communicating with others, you’ll gain more opportunities and referrals from your new connections, raising your profile in the eyes of potential clients and investors. This gives you access to quality leads that you were previously unaware of or unable to contact, which is key to helping your business grow and thrive.
Showcasing your expertise — Networking is a fantastic opportunity to show off exactly why your business is great at what it does. People who network are looking for the right company to connect with, so show them why you’re the best choice to move forward with.
How to grow your business network
Networking won’t turn your business into an overnight success. Doing it right requires time and dedication.
Going into networking with the mindset that you can attend an event and walk away with a new list of clients is the wrong approach. Brad Burton, the founder of the UK’s largest joined-up business, 4Networking, says that many SMEs think of networking for a new business as a transaction. He claims “You don’t say: ‘I need some sales, I’m going to a networking event to top up’. You’ve got to commit for between six and twelve months to truly benefit from networking.”
Patience is key, networking should be treated as part of your day-to-day business, not a quick fix.
With that in mind, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure you’re making the right decisions to raise your profile and make those crucial connections.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help — Seeking advice from others and providing it in return is a great way to create new connections. By communicating with support networks and offering your own advice to others, you’ll begin to see relationships forming with like-minded people.
Seek out industry experts — For example, if you’re a whizz at web development but struggle to string a sentence together, search or expand your network to find a copywriter you can outsource to. The cost of hiring a specialist is almost always outweighed by the amount of time you get back and the money you can make as a result of that.
Don’t be too hasty — While you may be making connections, you shouldn’t treat your new contacts as a new client list. Instead, cultivate your professional relationships so you can develop a wider network. Trying to push sales from someone you’ve just met may drive them away, but if you focus on developing a strong relationship instead, they may refer you to others in the future.
Go social — Social media is a powerful tool in the hands of a business owner and plays a key role in any business growth strategy. LinkedIn, for example, is an invaluable resource for your business, as it allows you to promote your expertise and boost your company’s brand, all from your fingertips.
Building key relationships
Making those initial connections is important but for them to help your business to grow, you need to develop them into key business relationships. Someone who may start out as an acquaintance could end up referring you to your biggest-ever client if you’re willing to invest into that relationship.
Personalising your messages - whether you’re emailing, reaching out on social media or even giving them a call - is a great place to start. It’s an easy way to show the person you’re connecting with that you have an interest in them specifically, rather than trying to sell to just anyone.
When you’re personalising a message, think about:
Their business — What is it about this person’s business that made you want to connect? Do they work in a similar field to you? What made them stand out as a potential connection?
Your business — What can you offer to them as a connection? What makes you a valuable asset to them?
The future — How do you see yourself progressing further with this connection? Is there potential to collaborate? What plans do you already have?
A personalised message creates a solid first impression, which is crucial for networking. Now that you’re connected, don’t be afraid to continue the conversation You should always be active with your social media contacts, so follow up with new connections to discuss potential opportunities to move forward.
Make your network work for you
Whether you’re looking to explore social media opportunities or you prefer traditional networking, remember not to over-complicate things. Networking takes time, and your goal is to build and expand on long-lasting business relationships.
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