Have you ever heard the phrase, “Your network is your net worth?” It's a true statement!
Networking is a significant part of any business, big or small, online or brick and mortar. Networking with other entrepreneurs gives you, the business owner, the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other like-minded business owners to grow and develop both businesses.
But, as a small business owner with an online business, such as a membership website, how do you go about networking effectively?
Thanks to the internet, there are many great ways online business owners can network, and we have a few tips and tactics to help you make the best of them!
In this post, we'll cover networking as a whole, ways to network effectively, and the differences between networking online and offline.
Networking: What Is It?
Before we dive deep into the world of networking, some of you out there may be wondering what it means to network in the first place. Allow us to explain.
Networking is the process of interacting with other individuals to build connections and opportunities.
Networking is awesome for a number of reasons:
- It allows people to see the person behind the business. When operating an online business, you don't always get the opportunity to interact with your customers the way you would in a traditional business. So having the ability to meet people who are interested in what you do and letting them get to know the person behind the brand is fantastic.
- It allows you to discuss your business in more detail. Meeting people in person and networking gives you the chance to talk to them more in-depth about your business. What opportunities are you seeking? What are you looking forward to in the next quarter? What services and/or products do you want to bring to your customers? What do you need help with executing? When networking, all of these thoughts and concerns can be addressed.
- It allows you to meet people who can help you and who you can help. As we stated before, discussing details of your business with others can help you find the help you've been looking for, or it can even open you up to meet someone who can use your experience. This can open up new collaboration and money-making opportunities for your business!
- It allows you to get away from the computer. When you start an online business, you quickly learn that you spend a LOT of time behind a computer screen or on your phone. That's where your business is! However, offline networking can give you the chance to step away from technology and interact with actual human beings for a while!
Online Networking vs. Offline Networking
Thanks to the beauty of the internet, online business owners now have the option to network with other entrepreneurs either online or offline.
There isn't necessarily a good or bad option; it's a matter of preference. Here are a few differences between the two:
- You can network with other business owners from the comfort of your own home. When networking online, you can stay at home and reach out to other businesses online. You can be in your pajamas, and they won't know the difference!
- You can control the conversation. When you're chatting with someone online or via email, you have a bit more control over the conversation. You can stop and think about what you're saying before you respond, or you can even decide whether you want to continue the conversation or not.
- It's easier to initiate the conversation. Some people prefer online networking because they don't have to go through the awkwardness that sometimes comes with starting a conversation with someone they don't know.
- You can network whenever you want. Another significant aspect of online networking is that there is no set time or place for you to find networking opportunities—you can choose who you network with, what platform you network with them on, and for how long. It's a great time-saver for busy business owners.
- You can interact with actual people. When you start a business, such as a membership website, you may not get the chance to interact with many other business owners face-to-face as you would with a brick and mortar business. Attending networking events or arranging to meet with other business people lets you get that personal feel live and in action!
- Your interactions could potentially be more honest. When you're networking online with a company, you can control how you are perceived. Entrepreneurs can put on their best face when online, but you may find their online persona to be different from their in-person persona. When you meet face-to-face, you get a more accurate assessment of an individual or company, because they can't hide.
- You can't be ignored. If someone doesn't want to talk to you online, they don't have to, and there's not much that you can do about that. However, when seeing someone face-to-face, it is much harder for someone to avoid you or not speak to you at all.
- Technology doesn't get in the way. The internet is a fantastic thing, but it does have its drawbacks. There may be a poor connection in your video chat with a graphic designer, a call could drop during a conference about your web design, or that important email or social media message about your online store could fail to send. When meeting and networking in person, you never run into these issues while discussing your online business ideas.
Networking Tips & Tricks
Whether online or offline, there are a few tips and tricks that you can follow that will make your networking efforts worthwhile.
- Location, Location, Location. Whether networking online or offline, the place where you network is vital. Choose Facebook groups, message boards, in-person events, or venues where businesses or customers who share your interests are. If your membership business caters to dog-lovers, you wouldn't want to join a group for hobbyist genealogists, would you? Make sure the two match up!
- Be Presentable. Nobody wants to talk with someone who doesn't look like they want to be there or doesn't fit in. Dress appropriately for networking events, and if you are behind a screen, make sure your profile photo looks nice. Video chatting? Put on a nice shirt, dress up your background, and impress the masses. A little sprucing up never hurt anybody!
- Work the (Chat) Room. Don't just approach one person and chat them up the entire time—mingle! Talk with as many people as you can. You never know who you might bump into if you just put yourself out there.
- Ask Questions. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who only talked about themselves the entire time? Lame, right? Don't be that guy! When you're chatting with people, ask them questions about themselves and their business. Make them feel like you care about what they have going on. Doing this will make the conversation go even further and possibly help you see more opportunities to work with that individual.
- Be Resourceful. Don't leave all the glory to yourself! If you've met someone, and they're looking for services that you may not have, don't be afraid to recommend someone you know to them. This will help to build trust with a fellow business owner and show that you have connections, and the business you recommended will greatly appreciate it!
Networking is a vital part of having and building a small business. If you are not a naturally talkative or social person, it can take some time, but that's okay! It takes effort, but the payout is so worth it. The key is to remain positive and not give up. You'll be gaining connections in no time!
What networking tips do you have for other business owners? Have you ever attempted to network online? What are some of your favorite in-person networking events you've been to? Tell us in the comments!