Sadly for many of us, the adage, "it's not what you know, but who you know" rings very true in business. Not because of any advantage that you might have, but about trust in who you deal with. People would much rather use a recommendation than try and research out a product or service they know little about.
Therefore networking is critical in business and in another blog, we describe the best way to increase your networking circle. This article will discuss how best to use your network.
The first is to draw up a list of all the people you know in business. To a degree this could include a few friends that might have some influence somewhere, categorise them and create a profile on each. Capture their emails in a separate database. I know this is a time-consuming exercise initially, but once it's underway you can use it for all manner of things. Apart from email, there will be an opportunity to occasionally call them and talk about business. Sending cards or mini reports is also a very useful way to keep you in touch. Over time, that sort of database becomes extremely valuable and you create a network map.
LinkedIn is another way of networking, but problems occur especially if someone you know doesn't subscribe to it. LinkedIn has another useful vantage. If you key in a target name, there is every likely hood that someone in your network might know them and give you a referral, if you don't ask, you don't get!
The second is to attend networking events that are right for you. Target your audience. So if you're a builder you should join your professional association and so forth. There is no point in using a scatter gun approach to networking because it is time-consuming and some networking associations can be expensive to join. When you're a startup and you need the immediate business, they seem all very attractive, but they are niche.
My advice is to talk to the local representative from the local chamber of trade. They offer a very wide choice of events, if you join, subs are reasonable and you will receive impartial advice. I have been a member of Cambridgeshire Chamber for more than 20 years and make good use of its services. They can advise about other networking groups that might be suitable for you.
Finally, if you’re self-employed, you're not alone. Starting a new business is a daunting prospect and if you have prepared your network in the first place, at least you can talk to like-minded people.
Before you start in business attend a few networking events first and talk to the participants, you will get loads of free tips, advice and they are a good support group to help get you started.