It’s common knowledge that establishing a solid professional network can open doors of opportunities.
A wide and deep business network not only will help you get more customers in your sales funnel but will also help you come up with new business ideas, analyse them, and select the most promising ones.
However, one of the biggest mistakes business owners make is believing that business networking is a race to rack up contacts, business cards, or followers on Twitter. Or they see networking as an opportunity for self-promotion.
Networking is about forging truly genuine relationships with people you trust. The best relationships that stand the test of time are built on a mutual desire to give value to the other person and acknowledge others’ accomplishments.
In Mark Manson’s book “The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck” (a brilliant book that helps you become more realistic in life), people’s relationships are being described as a choice of either breadth or depth.
If you want to collect as many contacts as possible for self-promotion, this is a choice of breadth. If you want to build authentic relationships with others based on mutual trust and respect, this is a choice of depth (the preferred option).
Follow the tips in this post to grow your professional network (and your business, too) while developing a healthy networking mindset and building meaningful relationships.
Table of contents:
- Avoid these common networking mistakes
- Make your business reputation pack a punch
- Leverage the strength of weak ties
- Join the right business networking groups
- Work on your LinkedIn profile
1. Avoid These Common Networking Mistakes
Networking is about building connections, not finding clients (only after building connections you are likely to turn them into paying clients).
Here are the biggest mistakes you could make when looking to collect more leads and convert them into customers:
- Expecting to find clients while attending networking events
- Passing out tons of business cards during a networking event
- Going into hard-sell mode
- Jumping in with your offers instead of listening and asking good questions
- Sending a sales pitch when following up with people after networking
- Using a cheesy elevator pitch (e.g., a long, airy-fairy elevator pitch)
- Underselling yourself
- Bashing your competition (spending the few minutes you have with other people talking about how bad your competitors are)
- Asking for something before building a connection (e.g., asking for a referral)
- Keeping discussions safe and limited to the surface (don’t be afraid to ask more insightful questions, such as “What drew you to work in this particular industry?” or “Are there new technologies affecting your business?”)
Be aware of these networking mistakes to make your networking experiences more effective (and make a great first impression on anyone).
2. Make Your Business Reputation Pack A Punch
Your business reputation plays a significant role in building strong and genuine connections (because people prefer to build business relationships with people they see as trustworthy and valuable).
Show others you’re running a professional business having a reliable image (and not a startup that you’re growing in a basement).
Don’t get me wrong, starting out with a makeshift basement office is an exciting moment – not to mention that many successful companies have started in basements, bedrooms, and sheds.
However, modern technology is now helping businesses run more smoothly and build an impeccable reputation (especially home-based startups running without a physical office).
For example, a cost-effective virtual office can work magic for your business reputation. A virtual office can provide your startup with all the essential services it needs to appear more professional and established – but at a minimal cost.
Add the contact details provided by a virtual office to your business cards (e.g., professional business address and landline number) to make your business reputation pack a punch and quickly expand your business network!
3. Leverage The Strength Of Weak Ties
Networking is all about getting the right people on your side and nurturing those relationships.
The right people do not necessarily need to come from your immediate circle and share the same vision as you do.
In fact, networking with people outside your close social circle and industry bubble is a great way to attract more business opportunities.
The right people outside your industry are likely to help you gain new insights and change your perspective to solve problems more effectively. They will also help you connect with other people you wouldn’t normally be associated with.
In a study called The Strength of Weak Ties (one of the most influential sociology studies of all time), Mark S. Granovetter of Johns Hopkins University explains how individuals get more opportunities from weak ties (their outer circle of acquaintances) than from people they feel close with.
By bridging different groups, weak ties provide exposure to new ideas and new people with a different mindset from yours.
Therefore, nurturing the right weak ties will help you build win-win relationships based on trust and mutual benefit.
4. Join The Right Business Networking Groups
Joining business networking groups lets you interact with different people, increase your connections through local meetups, and generate new business opportunities.
Here are a few networking groups you may want to join to grow your business network (please be aware that there are loads of different options out there as there has been an explosion of business networking groups throughout Australia over the last few years):
- Melbourne Business Network (MBN) – Created in 1994, Melbourne Business Network is a membership-based networking organisation that aims to facilitate connections, communications, and collaboration between businesses.
- Business Network International (BNI) – Business Network International Australia is one of the world’s largest referral networking organisations created to build trusted relationships that generate referrals and business growth.
- Fresh Networking – Fresh is a professional business network group aiming to build connections and expand networks. The Covid-19 pandemic opened the opportunity to grow Fresh further, with new online hubs throughout Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
- Match Alliance – Created in 2015, Match Alliance is a great business networking organisation focusing on putting business owners in contact and helping them find opportunities where they can work together.
5. Work On Your LinkedIn Profile
LinkedIn is by far the most extensive professional network in the world. Many people have the common misconception that LinkedIn is only beneficial for job hunters and those looking to recruit talent. Wrong!
LinkedIn is an amazing tool that enables you to connect with other business owners for mutual benefit and generate new opportunities.
Here are the most important benefits of growing your business network on LinkedIn:
- Increase your online presence
- Improve your business reputation
- Identify potential leads, engage them, and turn them into customers
- Drive traffic to your website
- Identify opportunities and drive business growth
Want to leverage the power of LinkedIn and build more meaningful relationships to expand your professional network? Read this post and learn how to create and optimise a compelling LinkedIn Business Page to get more referrals, clients, and leads.
Conclusion: Networking is synonymous with business opportunities and long-term growth.
Business networking can work magic for your company as it can lead to fruitful partnerships and help you gain customers and key insights.
Staying connected with industry insiders and thought leaders will keep your business at the cutting edge!
Looking for more opportunities to find connections open to helping you grow and build a powerful professional network?
If that’s you, start by strengthening your company’s reputation. Make your business appear even more credible and trustworthy. To do so, give us a shout and learn how a B2B HQ Virtual Office can help you build a 5-star business reputation. Perceptions do create reality, and the first impressions you give the people you connect to are key to creating new business opportunities!