When you run a small business, networking is one of the most important means of ensuring your continued success. As a business owner, one of the most important ways to help your business continue growing is to always keep your options and avenues open for increasing sales. If you are always trying new strategies, you are learning all of the different ways that many businesses will use to gain success. Once you become fluent in the world of business, it is easy to find the best way for your small business to thrive.
One of the best strategies for increasing sales in both the short and long-term is networking. To put it plainly, networking is a process in which you meet and talk with people to get information that is helpful. When it comes to the business world, meeting other people who work in your individual professional niche is always extremely helpful. Especially if you are new to the industry. Here are 11 ways networking can help your small business.
1. Sharing Industry Knowledge
When you meet people who work in the same field as you do, odds are high that they know a thing or two that you don’t about your professional niche. It is accordingly likely that you have some knowledge that you can share with them. This mutually beneficial relationship is one that anybody who is serious about their professional life will experience one day.
This mutual exchange of information is one of the most important ways that small businesses who work within the same niche can share ideas and collectively become better as a result. Sharing ideas is how humans can think about what each other has come up with from their own personal experience and then compare it with your own conclusions to learn from each other.
Nobody has all of the answers that you are looking for in how to become more successful with your business. However, one of the best ways to continually become better is to keep your mind open to new ideas and business strategies. When you are meeting people within your professional niche and simply having a cup of coffee, for example, and discussing what you do for work, you are both discussing information that is important towards your success.
2. Helps Generate the Best Market Prices
One common practice for businesses is to compare the price that your competitors are charging and either meet their price or even beat it. This sometimes-never-ending battle can lead to lower prices for consumers in the end. However, businesses that collaborate with each other during these periods instead of cutting each other off are more likely to reach conclusions that can benefit themselves.
For example, imagine that you sell lemonade for £1 a cup and after a week of moderate success you learn that another person down the street is selling lemonade for £0.10 a cup. You go down and ask the other lemonade stand how many customers they generate and immediately learn that they receive 10x more customers than you do. However, since you charge 10x more per cup you are cutting back on production costs more and, accordingly, making more money.
If the other lemonade stand is business-savvy, they will soon realise that the rules of supply and demand are illustrating that they should raise their price to around £1 if they want to start making more money. Sure, they may be getting more customer at £0.10 a cup, but their prices are halting them from making as much money as you are. This is just one of the many examples of how networking can help businesses learn how much they should charge for their products and services.
3. Spread Your Brand Name
When your brand name is well known and established, it is much easier to receive new clients who already respect you before starting business negotiations. The more consistent clients you get, the more you can kick back and relax from your business’ success. However, many small businesses aren’t at a consistent level of comfort if they don’t have a brand name that is widely known.
Building a name for your brand can take years of hard work, passion and commitment. During your initial years as a small business, the more ways you can spread the word that you exist in the first place is just as important as your sales. After all, the more people that know who you are, the more likely they will even consider coming to you in the first place.
You shouldn’t expect your brand name to be as big as BT, Tesco, or any of the other massive corporations, to be happy with your success. In most cases, you will be let down with brutal misery if you expect your name to be a multinational industry giant. However, a healthy level of visibility is an important way to help you reach a comfortable level of sales. For example, when other businesses are aware of your brand, they are more likely to give referrals to your business (more on this below).
4. More Referral Leads
Referral leads are one of the easiest ways of receiving clients once you have established a network with other businesses in your niche. If you establish yourself with businesses with great character and integrity, they are more likely to be honest with their clients when their supplies are limited or when they are simply incapable of providing service to them at the current time. When these times come, one common practice for businesses is to refer these clients over to another person in their network.
There are also times when a client wants to receive a product or service that isn’t offered by a particular company. These scenarios are another example of when a business might refer a client over to another business. Accordingly, these are other scenarios where it is good to have your name heard so that you can receive more referral leads.
Within a certain means, the more business you receive the better. When you have healthy relationships with the other professionals who work both within your exact niche and immediate surroundings, it increases the likelihood that they will send clients your way when they are unable to provide them with the service they want.
5. Make Friends in the Industry
When you engage with others in a professional manner, they are likely to return the same to you. Although it is important to keep things professional, it is also ok to cross the professional boundary sometimes to connect personally with others. Many people will put others into a certain “box” of their life where they only open it whenever the need arises. This is a common practice for people who are in solely-professional relationships.
However, in order to really gain someone’s trust and know more about who they are, it is best to treat them as the person that they are behind their professional trade. Ask about their family and what they enjoy doing in their spare time, etc. Small talk is often the gateway to learning whether or not you want to engage with someone as a personal friend instead of simply another business network colleague.
There are days when you have it all figured out and those in which you need help. On the days where you need to ask for a helping hand, and for your collective benefit in general, friends are something that are necessary to live a happy and prosperous life. When you make personal friends with somebody who works in the same industry as you, they will be among the first to offer a helping hand or give advice at crucial periods of time.
6. Learn the Best Industry Practices
Have you ever noticed that another business within your niche is able to do things at two or three times the speed of your own? Odds are high that this business has been around long enough to learn a thing or two about how to cost the production costs, how to manage their employees, what products to invest in, and a list of other things directly related to your industry.
One of the best ways networking is beneficial to your small business is that it helps you learn about the best ways to make it in your industry. Most business owners are rather intelligent, which is what makes them open-minded enough to consider learning from other businesses in the first place. If you are convinced of only one strategy to be the recipe for your success, you might be shattered later on down the road realising that you were wrong all along.
As you become established within your professional niche, you might start to ease back on networking for the purpose of learning the trade secrets of your industry. However, if you are a small business trying to find the key to success in your industry, networking with established companies will help you learn how to succeed.
7. Stay on Top of Business Trends
With technology literally progressing by the minute, it is important that you stay up-to-date on all of the commercial developments surrounding your industry. Perhaps you think it would be more competitive in the long run to 3D print your products, for example, instead of investing in the labour required for making goods by hand. Perhaps you might propose the alternative and ensure that you always produce goods by hand, comfortable with charging a higher price in return for the quality and demand for handmade goods.
In any case, there are certain to be opportunities where there will be some sort of commercial and technological trend that you will need to keep up with. For example, since many potential customers have online Facebook profiles, you can easily learn how to advertise your new business on Facebook and start reaching out to clients that may have otherwise been outside of your business’ influence. These are just a couple of the many different business trends that might occur with the circumstance presented by your own personal small business.
8. New Opportunities for Your Business
There are countless new opportunities for your business that can come along with a healthy amount of business networking. You never know if that random person you meet at the coffee shop who works in your niche will give you his/her contact information and then help you come up with new ideas for success. Each person in your network represents a new potential friend, business colleague, etc.
Some professionals who are looking for people to network with will also have the intention of looking for a business partner, which may sometimes be very beneficial towards your mutual success. There are many opportunities that are conceivable when you network with other people in your professional industry.
Outside of the opportunities already stated, networking will also help you open new doors that you didn’t already know were available. Perhaps you really wanted to purchase new speakers for your mobile DJ company and you meet another local DJ who will let you use theirs. Since each industry has their own set of trade secrets, the best way to access the hidden realm of opportunities is to ask other industry professionals.
9. Builds Your Confidence in the Industry
There is no price tag that comes along with peace of mind. When you are new to a particular niche, it is easy to become uncomfortable with your decisions. During these periods, it is important that you keep yourself educated on all of the ins and outs of your industry so that you can receive the confidence that you need as a professional in your industry.
When you are confident in your industry, it usually means that you put in the work to network with your competitors to realise that you have a product which is just as suitable. This confidence can be built from years of trial and error before it finally blooms.
However, if you are a small business owner you realise how humbling it is to receive modest incomes which allow you to scrape by. These experiences should be the heaviest motivator in convincing you to take your professional life seriously and become fluent in the language of your professional niche. Confidence that you are always making good decisions and are aware of all of the latest developments and competition in your industry will help ensure that you are successful.
10. Make Better Business Decisions
The decisions you make in your daily business affairs help determine whether or not your business will succeed. For small businesses who are relatively new to a particular industry, it may be difficult to figure out what the best business decisions are since you are either convinced on a bad one or simply not networking and learning from others who have been in the industry much longer than you have. Having a flawless business model which runs on educated business decisions is a priceless asset.
One of the first steps to creating an effective business model is to make the right decisions on which investments you should make, how you should find new clients, the fastest way to increase sales, and many other potential questions you will likely ask yourself. There is never any shame in learning from others who are more experienced than you are in a particular field. If you want to start making the best business decisions, you should network with some of the various experts in your field and share ideas.
11. Future Job Opportunities
Not every business is destined to last until the end of time. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is normal for your business to fail. If you are concerned with this possibility, it is time to start finding other people in your industry that might consider being your employer in the future. Perhaps the opposite will happen and you will soon find them to be a trustworthy employee. In either case, people who work in the same industry should be empathetic enough to look out for each other when help is needed.
Sometimes people who start their own business will one day choose to close their business doors and work for somebody who is already established in the industry niche. If you spent plenty of time networking your business, you will find these periods to be a smoother transition than if you didn’t.
Intelligent people will often think of many different possible outcomes to a particular scenario so that they can be prepared for any of them at any given point. If it is even a remote possibility that you will be looking for employment in the future, it is important to network with other working professionals who might be willing to help you.
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