4.1 Introduction to business networking
There are several variants of the definition of the term “Business networking”:
- Business networking consists on developing and using contacts made in business for purposes beyond the reason for the initial contact. For example, a sales representative may ask a customer for names of others who may be interested in his product.
- Business networking is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people, entrepreneurs and potential clients or customers. Business networking benefits are the intangible gains made by communicating with other professionals in or relating to your industry or company.
- Networking is a socioeconomicbusiness activity by which business people and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities, share information and seek potential partners for ventures.
We can summarize that a business network is a type of business social network which is developed to help business people connect with other managers and entrepreneurs to further each other’s business interests by forming mutually beneficial business relationships.
Business networking is a way of leveraging your business and personal connections to help you bring in new customers, vendors or just get great advice for running your business.
Networking works in the favour of small businesses as the owners have to manage a huge variety of job functions in a small set-up. When they meet up with like-minded people, they learn from their experiences and get guidance on important matters. They can even find partners and angel investors through a networking group of experienced business owners. A lot of networking events take place in every country where entrepreneurs can meet, expand their affiliations, educate themselves and feel empowered. Adopting smart tactics can go a long way in securing partnerships, friendships and acquaintances.
Many businesses use networking as a key factor in their marketing plan. It helps to develop a strong feeling of trust between those involved and play a big part in raising the profile of a company. Suppliers and businesses can be seen as networked businesses, and will tend to source the business and their suppliers through their existing relationships and those of the companies they work closely with. Networked businesses tend to be open, random, and supportive, whereas those relying on hierarchical, traditional managed approaches are closed, selective, and controlling. These phrases were first used by Thomas Power, businessman and chairman of Ecademy, an online business network, in 2009.
Objectives of Networking Online
Ask yourself what you want to achieve and how. The fundamental thing when networking is to focus your energy on achieving a goal, such as gaining greater visibility.
Keep in mind that online networking should be natural. It must start from your social being and your abilities to empathize, observe, support, listen, interact, etc. Your attitude cannot be forced, nor intrusive, by analyzing what results you have had with the network of contacts you currently have and what you could build with them in the future. It is very likely that you realize that several of the contacts you have will not help you build your goal, because they do not add value to you, or because they are negative people.
Now think of three people in your network of contacts who you think can boost your project, or help you accelerate your growth, and share with them topics of common interest, participate in the conversation little by little, contribute interesting points of view, distribute its content, etc.
If you cannot find such a contact in your network, try to relate to the network of your friends, but remember to keep the line of subtlety.
So, Why practice Networking Online?
For many of us the word networking can be uncomfortable, because we are not sure what to say or what to do when we connect with someone, however, online networking has specific characteristics that if we continue well, will give us greater visibility. Remember:
- We have scarce resources (money, time, people …)
- We want to achieve maximum diffusion
- We want to achieve the maximum possible social and political impact
- manage our (scarce) resources in an efficient, practical, distributed manner