Here are 7 reasons why
People often marvel at how quickly I built my OBM business. And I guess it’s true. It did build solidly and perhaps a little quicker than others.
But I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.
It was purely and simply through good old-fashioned networking.
Like every new business owner, I tried all kinds of marketing. Flyers, brochures, emailers etc. but nothing worked better than getting out there and attending networking events.
At the start, I thought networking was purely for meeting other business owners and having dozens of business cards shoved in my hand. I’d go back to my office and wonder what to do next. I was missing the point, but I kept going back for more card swapping.
It wasn’t until I’d been to a few and spoken to more experienced business owners that I worked out that networking was fantastic for:
- Being a marketing resource
- Finding suppliers, you can refer your clients to
- Finding support within your industry and from other business owners
- Developing your skills through training at networking events
- Developing strategic alliances
Here are the top 7 ways networking helped my business to grow
Meeting the best business buddies in the world
You may be wondering why gaining business buddies can help you grow your business yeah? It’s not like they’re paying you to be your friend. But they give you something money can’t buy – honesty, support and friendship. There’s nothing better than finding someone who truly gets business. They share your struggles, they share your everyday burdens, and they share your wins. More than the blank looks or polite nods you may get from a partner who doesn’t run a business or get what you do, your business best buddy will get those highs and lows of business emotions.
Getting my little business some exposure
Unlike a creepy flasher lurking in a park, you should aim for maximum exposure when showing your business to the world. You’ve got a website, you’ve got socials, and you’re slowing directing people to check you out. My biggest hits came from networking, where not only did dozens of people receive my card, but I had to introduce myself to the group. And what does everyone do these days when they meet someone? They online stalk you! Boom – maximum exposure without ugly trench coats.
Spreading the word about my growing industry
Again, this isn’t going to build your business greatly, but I found there were tonnes of interest when I told people what I did. They had all heard about Virtual Assistants and Online Business Managers, but they were unsure exactly how it worked and what we did. So, I found myself often explaining what our industry was all about especially as we all have different talents and niches.
Gaining referral partners
Networking is all about making contacts. Think beyond the square as to the types of people who may be able to refer others to you. For example, an accountant would not need a bookkeeper, but they’d have clients who would. A graphic designer may not need a copywriter, but they’d have clients who would. And think about your clients. Have you met someone who provides a service your client is needing? If so, refer them on. Be a giver, not just a taker.
Learning to play nicely with others
If you’re looking to collaborate with others, networking introduces you to people from various industries. It’s a great way to suss people out to see what they’re like in real life, before you work with them, or refer them to your colleagues. You may be looking for a certain type of business to collaborate with (i.e. an accountant may be at networking events to find bookkeepers), or you may be surprised who you can collaborate with when you think outside the box. For example, an accountant may also benefit from finding a social media expert to help them communicate with their audience without the jargon they often use.
Welcoming ‘frienemies’ with open arms
One of the best things I’ve done for my business is network with others in my industry, both online and in person. Many people think competitors are a threat, but I believe they’re your greatest resource. The support you receive from others who do exactly what you do is amazing – they can help you when you’re stuck, and vice versa. They’re also there for times when you may need help with a client as they can quickly step in and help. When you get to know your ‘frienemies’ well enough, they can even cover you when you need to take a break.
Many networking groups have speakers and run training events. I’ve spent lots of time investing in continual training for my business, never settling for thinking I ‘know enough’. My theory is, ‘How can I expect my business to grow if I’m not willing to grow with it?’. And I find group training a lot more fun than sitting alone in my office (there’s no naughty table with cheeky laughs in my office). You learn more when others ask questions you may not have thought of, and it’s not hard to learn when you’re listening to an inspirational speaker.
The networking groups I belong to
It’s not hard to find networking groups in your local area. A simple Google search will do. For example, you can find local council events, BNI, Business in Heels, Motivating Mum and many more. You can also join many online groups where you can network online. Some of these groups have the occasional ‘in person’ meetups which are great to get along to and put faces to names.
I belong to the Virtually Yours network where all the best virtual business owners in Australia hang out. If I ever have a question, I know the group is there to help. I’ve met some of my best business buddies through this network.
I also belong to:
And that doesn’t even include all of my online networks!
What’s your favourite networking group?
I’d love to hear about your favourite networking group. What makes your group special and how have you grown your business through this group? Let’s showcase our favourite groups.