“Business networking is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people, potential clients, and/or customers” (Ward, 2017, p. 1). Networking is more than simply exchanging information between individuals.
It involves establishing personal relationships and connections with others. The purpose of networking is to build connections in order to expand business and increase career opportunities.
People also use networking to introduce one another to a wide variety of new opportunities including best practices, clients, contracts, and jobs. Employee referrals helped 78% of recruiters find their best candidates (Hamilton, 2017). Therefore, it is critical to understand the importance of network as well as how to network effectively within the business industry.
Business networking has always been vital in order to expand clientele base and develop business relationships; however, it’s now easier than ever before. With the use of social networking sites, individuals now have more opportunities to connect with business contacts and potential clients as well as seek out new information and ideas. Additionally, through the use of social networking sites you are able to develop your personal brand, identity, and online presence in a cost-efficient way (Dutta, 2010).
Having an online presence allows business colleagues, potential customers, and other interested parties to engage easily with you via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives. Several social networking sites can be utilized for networking purposes from the obvious ones such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to the less obvious like Ning and Yahoo! Groups (Ovadia, 2013). Social networking sites are too beneficial not to utilize.
Online networks have made it much easier to meet contacts, stay updated on their status and career news, nothing will ever touch the impact of face-to-face networking. It was noted that “face-to-face business interactions help create stronger, more productive, and more mutually beneficial relationships” (Miranda, 2014, p. 9).
Online networking lacks the personal connection which face-to-face networking provides. For example, exchanging information in the form of business cards and other items is an important step which leaves a lasting impression on your business contacts. Additionally, when you attend a face-to-face networking meeting, you come across a large number of people from the same field (Dutta, 2010). Therefore, face-to-face networking has a definite strategic advantage over any other method of networking.
In order to fully reap the benefits that networking may offer, you should maintain the mindset that you are always networking. Networking opportunities can take place during any social gathering such as fundraising events, sporting events, religious organization events, business conferences, or even gatherings with friends and family (Dinning, 2017).
Be ready and willing to break the ice and make yourself visible. Whether it be online or in person, connections and relationships cannot be made unless interaction occur. Ask questions to gather new information and ideas. Connections can be made anywhere at any time; it’s best to keep that in mind.
Show genuine interest in what others have to say and offer any additional information you might have. Create a bond by attempting to find common interests with others. Considers ways that you may be able to assist others by providing either information, guidance, resources, or connections (Dinning, 2017). Every successful person has a genuine desire to help others achieve success. Remember, networking is about creating a mutual advantageous relationship. Ensure that both of you have an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, and gain knowledge from each other.
It is important to foster true, bonds and relationships with your contacts before you can ask them for a favor or expect them to send you business. Therefore, it is essential that you build meaningful relationships and continue to maintain those connections. After a major networking event, it’s always a good idea to follow up to solidify the new connections you’ve made.
Follow-up letters should be sent within 24 hours, mention a topic from the event, and offer some type of help before asking for a request. Additionally, don’t forget to thank contacts when they have provided help. Be sure to show gratitude to maintain a healthy business relationship and allow for the possibility of business in the future. You never know when you might need your network, so it is important to find ways to keep in contact, reconnect, and add value wherever possible.
Networking can be an important tool in the business industry if utilized correctly. The benefits that can be obtained through networking include an increase in clientele base, expansion in business, new career opportunities, new information, and new ideas. Networking can be accomplished virtually anywhere through face-to-face interactions or the use of social networking sites. Networking is a mutually beneficial relationship that is more than just an exchange of information. It is about creating connections and bonds that are mutually advantageous for both parties.?