Why do you network? It’s one of my favourite questions to ask people and I love hearing all the different ways in which networking helps them in their business and personal lives. Whilst there are almost as many answers as there are people, there are some key themes that I hear over and over again, and this month, I’d like share them with you. Based on my thorough and extensive research (otherwise known as talking to Fresh members), here are the top ten reasons why businesses choose to network:
1. Visibility – as business owners, one of your biggest concerns is how to stand out against the competition. You want to be sure you are capturing your small share of the market, and not leaving everything to the big companies with their corporate marketing campaigns. Networking makes you visible, and keeps you top of mind with people who will introduce you to contacts who are the perfect match for you. I saw this myself when I started my boutique travel agency. I had to make sure I was seen, and not let the big guns like Flight Centre get all the business. Networking gave me the visibility I needed, and allowed me to find the right clients.
2. Introductions and connections – a network is like a magnet, it draws people in. Networking gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people, and through Fresh, many businesses have been introduced to people whose paths you wouldn’t otherwise have crossed. Over time, the connections and introductions increase, and you love the fact that you now have a community around you, which all started with that very first introduction.
3. Friendships and social networks – business can be very lonely. Whilst we’re all in different businesses, we’re all going through the same challenges, and therefore value the support of our business community. When I first moved to Melbourne from Brisbane, I literally didn’t know anyone, but through networking, I now have a large group of friends and social connections. For our Fresh members, networking is about more than just business – it’s an opportunity to connect at all levels.
4. Affordable marketing that gets results – all businesses have to promote themselves, but also all businesses need to manage their expenses. Networking is not only very affordable, but (because it is based on referrals) has incredibly high conversion rates. Unlike other forms of marketing, it’s also very easily trackable. It’s not necessarily the only piece of your marketing puzzle, but we do love the fact that it gets you a very big bang for your buck.
5. Builds trust – trust is built through consistency. Networking gives you the opportunity to build trust by being seen regularly at meetings, consistently explaining your value in your pitch, and through your actions, such as taking on hub leadership roles.
6. Positive vibe – let’s face it, we’ve had a tough couple of years, and at times it has been hard to stay positive. Our members and guests often walk away from your Fresh networking meetings with an extra spring in their step and feeling inspired. We love being around positive people, with a can-do attitude, seeing others achieve, and being able to help people. Networking, particularly through lockdown, gives you an injection of positive vibes.
7. Support network – some people start networking when they are relatively new in business, still needing support and help. Through networking, we find mentors, supporters, advisors. Not to mention, the generosity of others who offer support, help and guidance that really helps you develop your business.
8. ‘Someone who knows someone’ – for many, one of the reasons businesses network is that it makes you ‘stickier’ with your existing clients. You become someone with a great network, who can recommend other professionals to complement the services you offer your clients. They learn that you always recommend someone who’ll do a good job, and in turn you become more valuable to them.
9. Team of trusted advisors – networking gives you access to experts who can help you grow your business. Just as a corporate has different departments, you have advisors on just about every subject, with help from people who have your best interests at heart. They provide trusted advice, enabling you to focus on your core business.
10. New learning and skills – when you’re on your own in business, you often can’t afford a lot of training and development. Networking gives you access to a field of experts will to help you build your skills – not just business, but in a whole host of interesting areas.
We all network for different reasons. I am sure that you recognise the ‘top ten’ I’ve described here, and you can probably add to the list too. I’d love to hear from even more of you, so do share with me the reasons why you network.