Networking is essential when it comes to launching a small business, but getting out there and meeting new people will often be easier for some than others.

If the idea of ‘selling’ your business feels awkward and uncomfortable, it’s important to remember that most networking is about mutual benefit so you have nothing to be shy about. Over time, effective networking can become a powerful source of new business.

What are the benefits of networking?

Networking allows you to promote and increase exposure of your business. It’s low cost and can help you find investors, customers, staff, suppliers or even business partners.

There are plenty of other advantages including:

  • Shared knowledge: Take learnings from other business owners in similar positions. They’ll often have useful tips from their own experiences which will be even more relevant if they work in the same industry
  • Connections: Meeting new people helps to make yourself known and increase referral opportunities
  • Confidence: Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and regularly talking to people you don’t know will help build your confidence for selling your business
  • Profile raising: Networking helps you and your business become visible. Put yourself on the radar and begin to create a reputation. If you do this well, you’ll be first to mind for your vertical
  • Surprise opportunities: You never know what will come along from meeting new people. Some of them might be potential new customers

What are the different types of networking?

  • Face to face meetings: Meeting potential customers 1-1 to explain your business and value proposition
  • Networking events: Connect, learn and share with like-minded professionals at organised events
  • Forums: Raise your profile online by participating in relevant conversations
  • Social media: Break down geographical barriers and connect with like-minded business owners nationally or internationally
  • Anytime: Be unconventional, use any engagement as an opportunity to sell your business if appropriate

How can I prepare?

  • Adopt the right mindset: Don’t be shy when promoting your business
  • Hone your elevator pitch: Develop a succinct and persuasive sales pitch of the value you offer customers
  • Business cards: make sure they contain all your essential contact information and ensure you are memorable. Good business cards help reinforce your brand
  • Questions: prepare a few so that you get the most out of any networking situation

It’s also vital to remember to follow up. Practise a 24-hour turnaround so that you are fresh in the mind of the people you met and are also able to clearly remember the contacts you made.

The earlier you get started, the greater the number of connections you’ll make, which in time will help you grow and build your business.