What’s Your Networking IQ? (Or Why Entrepreneurs Should Bother Networking)

What’s Your Networking IQ? (Or Why Entrepreneurs Should Bother Networking)

Don’t roll your eyes at me just because you read the word networking!

Let’s be honest: Networking often conjures up images of pushy people cornering you and trying to convince you that you need their products or services within 30 seconds of meeting them.

Plus, networking is time-consuming and there can be a long time, if any, before you see direct returns to your business’ bottom line.  Despite the occasional awkward conversations and the hard-to-pin-down ROI of networking efforts, there are three main reasons that you need to be doing it, and doing it regularly – no matter what type of business you are in.

Why Bother Networking?

1) Networking helps you hone your voice –

No matter whether you are online, offline, service or product-based business, you need to know what makes you, and your company special.  Networking is the fastest way I know of getting out there, talking to lots of people in your target market and seeing what really resonates with them.  Often even clients who have been successfully building their business for years, don’t have a good handle on what differentiates them from their competition.  One power of networking lies in the fact that you can tell, and re-tell the story of your business over and over again multiple times and tweak it each time.

You need to get to the point where, when you are talking about your company, people’s eyes are lighting up.  When people are nodding because they understand you AND see exactly how valuable your products or services are to them – that’s a good sign. (For an entertaining and educational Ted talk on this subject, check out Simon Sinek’s talk.)

2) Networking helps you create business relationships and partnerships.

There are two different types of networking opportunities you want to take advantage of.

networkingOne, the most common, is to put yourself in a situation where you can meet a lot of people in your target market.  That’s useful for honing the story of your business (see #1) and developing new customers.

The second, equally valuable reason, is to find other businesses or professionals who have the exact same target market but do something complimentary to what you do.  Many people call these relationships referral partners.  For instance, when I owned my online baby gear company, we formed a lot of partnerships with Mom Bloggers.  Many had the same target audience, in our case early-stage Moms looking for advice, but they weren’t competing with us.  There are many of these types of symbiotic relationships that come easily to mind if you stop to consider – landscapers and nurseries, architects and interior designers.

What types of businesses could become good referral partnerships for you?  Get out and meet those type of business owners!

3) Doing Stealth Market Research –

Let’s face it – this world is constantly changing and your business must too if you want to be at the forefront of your industry.  The only way to make sure you are evolving in the right direction is to hang out with your ideal market and learn more about them: listen to what they are excited about, complaining about, and just intrigued by.  If you don’t have your finger on the pulse of your customers, they’ll soon be somebody else’s customers – likely someone who was paying a lot closer attention to what they wanted.

4) Get Out Of Your Bubble (optional) 

Ok, I know I said just 3 important keys but I had to throw in this last one.  Honestly, if you pick the right events, networking can just be a fun way to hang out with people you like and get some good-old-fashioned entrepreneurial support. 

I know that you can facebook and twitter all-day long with other “real” people but sharing a joke where you can hear laughter rather than seeing “LOL!” or “ROTFL*” is one way to build a community.  So make sure you are getting enough social connection on your entrepreneurial path!

What’s Next?

Ok there you have my top three four answers to the “Why?” question of networking. What do you think? Do you agree? Post below and let me know your thoughts!

Your next question is likely “How?” How do I find my target market to network with? How do I approach someone about being a referral partner? How do I really find out what my customers want?  Good questions!

I’d love to invite you to bring any questions about marketing, or anything else in your business to my next monthly call, which is going to be an open Q&A with me, on May 22nd at 11am.  I’d love to help you find the keys to getting started on effective business growth in the ways that would serve you best.

*ROTFL = Rolling On The Floor Laughing

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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