By Alaina Posey
The ability to network strategically and effectively has launched many successful careers. Business networking is the process of establishing mutually beneficial relationships with other business owners, potential clients, and referral sources. While most agree that networking is a key component of any thriving entrepreneur, many find it difficult making this practice a priority. This may be especially true for women, who don’t always feel comfortable advocating for themselves.
Benefits of Business Networking
A successful business is all about connections. A business owner must connect with clients, potential clients, as well as those who may refer potential clients. Networking allows you to make these positive connections – and many more. Other benefits include:
Career advice and support
Fresh ideas & new perspectives
Increased visibility and brand awareness
Staying current with trends
With all the potential advantages that come with networking, why do some women resist brokering these new connections?
Networking Roadblocks for Women
According to a study by SAGE Publishing that appeared in the Journal of Human Relations, women are falling victim to self-imposed barriers, such as modesty, the tendency to undersell their value and strengths, and reluctance to leverage their connections as a means to get ahead.
Unlike men, women may often get social pushback when trying to self-promote. What may be seen as smart business marketing among men can be (mistakenly) viewed as unattractive social aggression in women.
In order to bring forth change, women must power through and focus on the benefits that come with strategic networking.
Starting a Successful Network
Social support is incredibly important for long-term success. If you cringe a bit at the thought of business networking, try to avoid the transactional approach. Don’t think, “what can you do for me if I do this for you” when making new business connections. Successful networking is more about creating genuine relationships and fostering mutual support.
Here are a few other tips to get started.
Make it a priority. If you wait around to start networking, it’ll never happen. Make a concrete plan – a detailed one with dates and specifics – and dive in.
Prepare ahead. Before attending a trade show or marketing event, make a list of topics you can be ready to discuss. This is especially key for introverts who tend to shy away from socializing. If you’re ready in advance with interesting conversation starters, you’ll be much less nervous.
Ask for help. Seeking advice from mentors and trusted business associates can help you create a tailor-made game plan for your social strategy.
Meet new people. Every day, at every opportunity. Be friendly and conversational with folks at the market, the gym, or in other social situations. Carry business cards with you and hand them out when appropriate. Remember, this is not about mindless mass marketing but developing real relationships.
Engage on social media. Creating a solid online presence is critical in today’s digital world and significantly expands your networking possibilities.
The best networkers focus on what they can do for others. Can you refer customers to a local business? Write a positive testimonial for the owner? Help promote their brand? Following practices like these will build an effective network without feeling like you are shamelessly self-promoting.