Let's define networking in a nutshell: it's a business and personal marketing tool that will deliver your overall business and marketing strategy.
In marketing terms, networking as a tool, will show you where to find future business opportunities rather than immediate results. But established networkers do achieve immediate results, which is why all business people should be good at networking.
Networking is particularly well-suited to any business focused on consultative selling, trusted advisors, key account management programmes, account-based marketing, referral marketing and localised markets. It also works incredibly well if you are looking to break into new markets, learn about your competitors, deepen your knowledge about your clients and other forms of market research. In fact, in any area where it is important to know what's going on inside a client's business and or the markets you work in, networking works brilliantly well.
Because it is a personal form of communication and usually involves face-to-face contact, networking deepens your business's connections.
People still buy from people first. If people are to buy from you because they trust you, you need to be well connected and have a credible profile in your marketplace.
Now, networking works. But it doesn't work by accident. How you do it, when and with whom is down to you; but if you do it well, with a strategy, it will bring benefits to your business — both now and for a long time to come.
Good networkers achieve amazing results and I think it is vital to explain briefly what can be achieved so that you can see what is possible:
Word-of-mouth marketing is happening no matter what. People are always talking about other people. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, says, "A brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room". I would add: "That is how networking happens". It is the coffee chat, the water-cooler conversation. Here's how one such goes:
Person A: "How's that project going?"
Person B: "Not too bad, but Jim has dropped out, so we've come to a grinding halt!"
Person A: "Have you found a replacement yet?"
Person B: "No, we're struggling to find someone we can trust and who has the right skills."
Person A: "I know just the right person..."
The act of turning up, engaging with people, leaving a great impression and staying in touch will give you those future business opportunities. And if you don't build those relationships, someone else will.
There are some common misconceptions about networking that can inhibit both individuals and businesses.
Now with the right mindset, a strategy and by getting out there and engaging, you can make it happen.