7 Tips To Help You Network Profitably As An SME

I hope that since receiving our letter on The Nigerian Exporter, you have begun to make moves towards enlarging your market by taking advantage of the export opportunities we exposed you to. Whichever way this goes, trust that we in Wema Bank are rooting for you. Feel free to share your success stories and challenges (if any) with us at smehelpdesk@wemabank.com

This month, we will be addressing another important aspect of business growth, one that most small entrepreneurs tend to take for granted: Networking. 

We bet you have heard these sayings, “Your network is your net-worth,” and, “It’s not what you know, it’s whom you know.” All these are true, especially in our ever-competitive business world. Having a healthy network of business contacts can be one of your greatest assets as a business owner.

So how do you build this healthy business network? Ride with us let’s take you through.

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What is Networking?

Meeting and interacting with people are an essential part of human nature. Hardly a day goes by without humans interacting with each other virtually, or in person. It is so commonplace that we often overlook the sheer force of power that this random act wields. It is this random act of interaction that the “pros” perfect and build a strategy around to propel them into becoming business tycoons.

Simply put, networking is making deliberate efforts to build connections with people whom you believe would contribute to the growth of your business.

For some people, networking comes easy. But for others, it can be a nightmare. The good news is that networking, just like any skill, can be learnt. So, if you are an introvert and would rather not be bothered about networking; or if you are one of those whose schedules are so tight that you can hardly make room for lunch, let alone networking, do not fret. With just a little commitment to the tips I will be sharing today, you will find yourself shining through.

Why you Should Care About Networking

If you are going to be spending time building a skill, especially one as daunting as networking, it’s only fair that you’re convinced of its worth. I have itemized some of the most compelling reasons why you should care about building a strong and healthy business network below. I hope you find them convincing.

  • To increase your inter-personal connections: People do business with people that they know, like and find dependable. Company decisions are made by people. Actual human beings. Being connected to someone who is in the room when important decisions that may be beneficial to your business are being made, gives you an edge.
  • To help with lead generation: Taking part in networking activities opens you up to meeting potential business partners and clients. You never know where or from whom your big break will come, but the wider your business network, the better your chances of catching a break.

 

 

  • To help with brand visibility: The more you network, the more people get to know about you and your business. The more known your brand, the more trustworthy it becomes, and the easier it is for existing connections to refer new clients/businesses.
  • To stay up to date: The business world is ever-changing. Networking with local business people can keep you up to date with the latest news or trends.
  • Friendship: Your connections might grow to become friends or even family. This is not emphasized enough, but it is very important because at the end of the day, what truly matters is whom we have in our tight corner.

How Can You Network Effectively?

Now that you know why networking is so important, I’m sure you are eager to get started. The tips below will be very helpful in your quest to building a formidable business network:

  1. Decide on a purpose: Do not fall into the trap of approaching networking in an ad-hoc way. It is a strategic business decision and should be treated as such. Decide on what you are looking for in a network (customers, contracts, fresh ideas, etc.) This will help you draw up a plan and show you where to focus your efforts.
  2. Use good networking etiquette: Upon meeting people, do not launch straight into speaking on end about your business. This is very off-putting. Rather, strive to make personal connections and build relationships of mutual benefit by listening to other people’s opinions, challenges and needs.
  3. Leverage social media: Social media can be a great place to start. You can join conversations and groups on LinkedIn or Facebook or whatever your preferred social media platform. However, keep in mind that physical meetings are very important in building long-lasting relationships. Work to achieve a balance between the virtual and physical aspects of maintaining relationships.
  • To help with brand visibility: The more you network, the more people get to know about you and your business. The more known your brand, the more trustworthy it becomes, and the easier it is for existing connections to refer new clients/businesses.
  • To stay up to date: The business world is ever-changing. Networking with local business people can keep you up to date with the latest news or trends.
  • Friendship: Your connections might grow to become friends or even family. This is not emphasized enough, but it is very important because at the end of the day, what truly matters is whom we have in our tight corner.

 

 

 

Do not limit yourself to the above list. Get creative about other ways that you believe will help you build and grow a professional network. Whatever strategies you apply, always remember the following when attending networking events:

  • Go with your business cards
  • Take care with your appearance—it matters
  • Do not spend all your time with people you already know. The idea is to meet new people, keep that in mind
  • Prepare a brief speech with which to introduce yourself and your business
  • Focus on what you can do for others, and not what they can do for you
  • Show genuine interest in what others do. Listen and ask questions
  • Always leave a conversation with an open opportunity to reconnect

Conclusion

People are the real wealth. This is as true of individuals as it is of nations. Networking allows you to maximize this wealth. Never pass it up.

Author – Ndianabasi Udondian

Posted in SME Newsletter.