Navigating professional networking for small businesses

Building a strong professional network is an integral part of any business. This is especially the case for small businesses and entrepreneurs looking to secure new business leads and additional investment.

While some people are like a duck to water given the opportunity to mingle with like-minded business professionals, those of us who are more introverted may feel like we’ve been thrown in the deep end. But irrespective of how you feel about it, networking can open up many opportunities for business development.

The benefits of investing in networking for small businesses

From new business leads and investment opportunities to joint ventures or referrals, you never know when a new contact is going to come in handy. Value-adding for colleagues and potential clients through networking can help position you and/or your business as an expert within your field, making you their first point of call and building your reputation in the industry.

Genuine networks can also provide a great source of support. It’s typical for connections to share insights, knowledge, experience and tackle common challenges together. And who knows, you might even make a friend along the way.

Such networks are also particularly important for individuals new to the business world who are in need of mentors to guide them through the peaks and troughs of entrepreneurial life.

What digital networks should small businesses invest their time in?

A simple search for small business and networking comes up with a plethora of articles with tips and suggestions for how to wow a crowd at networking events.

But what these articles fail to recognise is the importance of digital-based networking in an app first era. With advancing technologies, networking has moved from stuffy conferences and formal business lunches to incorporate both online and in-person networking opportunities.

The “swipe right” culture of meeting new people on dating apps has seamlessly transferred to professional networking with the likes of Bumble Bizz and Shapr. Connecting with colleagues, mentors or prospective clients on these apps is a cost-effective way of networking for those uninterested in conferences.

This is also especially useful for time-poor small business owners looking to build on their network without needing to fork out on expensive ticketed events when just starting out on a business venture.

When you are attending an important industry event, making use of mobile apps created specifically for such events or conferences can provide the opportunity to meet peers, prospects or clients. Plus, many now have the capability for patrons to connect via messages directly through the application – taking the pressure off networkers who are nervous about awkward introductions.

Making the most of the collision of digital and in-person networking

Whether using digital networking or a mix of both online and offline networking, there’s no need for a hard and fast sell. Instead, take time to build reciprocal relationships and long-lasting connections that will ensure a return on your investment.

In an era where networking opportunities available from just about anywhere, and in just about any form, there’s no excuse not to develop the critical relationships which will ensure your business development.

Brecht Fourneau, Senior Director EMEA & APAC Marketing, Aventri

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