Entrepreneur Networking: 8 Strategies To Boost Your Business
Growing a successful business takes a lot of hard work – but one skill set that makes it easier? The ability to network.
As an entrepreneur, networking – a tool for sharing experiences, building relationships with others, and learning new knowledge – is invaluable. Whether it’s online or in-person, collaborating with like-minded industry leaders and building business contacts is an ability you need as a successful entrepreneur. And although it’s important at all stages of business development, it’s arguably even more so when you’re just starting.
Here’s what you should know about entrepreneur networking, including how to do it well (without that ick factor!).
Why Networking in Entrepreneurship?
From finding your next client to discovering a potential investor, entrepreneur networking can help you secure profitable connections.
It can also improve your core skill set, including professional communication abilities and problem-solving. If you’re naturally an introvert, being at networking events can enhance your social skills and public speaking abilities.
And don’t forget about the sense of community that entrepreneur networking can create! Being an entrepreneur is tough; sometimes, you may feel like you’re doing it alone. Being surrounded by like-minded people can help you navigate these challenges and even provide a sense of camaraderie.
Learning what other entrepreneurs have gone through to gain success can motivate your goals, too.
8 Entrepreneur Strategies for Networking
There’s much more to networking besides showing up at an event and shaking some hands! The following eight entrepreneur strategies can help increase your network:
Participate in networking events
There are two ways to attend networking events: in person or online. Both offer the chance to get to know other professionals and build your network in your niche. Besides in-person events, check out groups on social media and online forums. But be sure to do more than just read posts – become active in discussions.
Sometimes, the groups you join don’t need to be networking-focused to present business opportunities. For example, participating in a Facebook group for your hobby can bring unexpected connections!
Having a diverse network of people with various backgrounds and experiences is better than having a solely business-focused one.
Before attending an event, ensure you have everything you need to make successful connections. Work on your elevator pitch and print enough business cards for the expected headcount. On your business card, use a simple design highlighting your full name, job title, phone number, email, website/portfolio, and professional summary.
Next, make a plan for the event itself. Set a goal to meet a specific number of new people at the event – and aim high! Although numbers can vary by attendance numbers, a good rule of thumb is to try to meet 5-6 people.
Depending on the event, it may also be useful to conduct some research ahead of time on the keynote speaker or topic. This can aid you in breakout room discussions, where you can say goodbye to being speechless!
Present your business
As tempting as it may be to sit at an event and wait for the keynote speaker, use your time wisely!
Before the event starts, try to mingle with some new faces. And avoid sitting by people you know – instead, see this as an opportunity to potentially build a relationship with two new people beside you. You can chat with your friends any other time!
When speaking with new connections, make the conversation as sincere as possible. Avoid networking only to pitch your business to others – it’s much more than that. Instead, approach new faces with the goal of creating a connection. The networking can naturally happen from there.
Stay open and kind
Be as welcoming as possible to everyone you encounter at the event – especially the newbies.
Like you, many will feel uncomfortable, so try to break the ice with some simple questions to start the conversation. Putting others at ease helps eliminate self-consciousness and can potentially even create a friendship.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Besides being a conversation starter, asking good questions can solve your business-related problems and is a great way to gain entrepreneurial tips.
Ask new contacts about their opinions and thoughts on trends in your industry to get the conversation flowing.
Give advice to others
Networking isn’t solely about getting referrals and business help from others. It’s a two-way street! Try to give back as much as you receive.
Offer advice to another entrepreneur’s problems, provide referrals when possible, and share information you think the other person may find helpful. This type of thoughtfulness can pay back immensely in the future!
Follow up with contacts
Post-event, jot down information about the people you met – like where they work, their qualifications and interests, details about their brand, and important facts related to your business.
To help create a memorable impression, reach out to your new contacts a few days after the event. Try to reference something from your earlier conversation to show that you were actively engaged, and maintain notes about your new discussion.
Following up with connections is a great way to potentially create a mutually-beneficial, long-lasting relationship.
View everywhere as a networking opportunity
Networking for business owners doesn’t only happen at networking events! Keep those business cards handy because building organic connections can potentially happen anywhere. You never know where you may get asked about what you do!
Where to Meet Entrepreneurs?
Once you realize the value of networking, it’s time to get to work meeting others! The list below highlights some popular networking groups and organizations you can join as an entrepreneur.
1. Entrepreneurs’ Organization
Featuring over 16,500 diverse business leaders, the Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a peer-to-peer network with 198 chapters in 61 countries. Since 1987, the organization has provided a space for business owners to connect, learn, and grow while achieving transformational growth.
2. Business Networking International (BNI)
This world-leading membership-based referral network was founded in 1985 and is a proven business networking organization. By offering in-person, online, and hybrid experiences, BNI has a meeting type that can suit every lifestyle and business.
3. The National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
NASE is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan association of its kind in the United States. Since 1981, it’s offered daily support to entrepreneurs and micro-businesses typically only available to large corporations. Members enjoy direct access to experts, benefits, and consolidated buying power that helps them remain competitive in today’s marketplace.
4. Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC)
YEC provides holistic guidance to a highly selective group of young entrepreneurs (45 years and younger) looking to grow personally and professionally. After meeting specific eligibility requirements, YEC’s prestigious member community receives real-time support and unparalleled services explicitly created for member growth.
SCORE connects entrepreneurs with experienced volunteers willing to help others start and grow their businesses. Since 1964, the organization has assisted more than 11 million entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. by providing free expert mentoring, resources, and education.
6. Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA)
As an accredited social enterprise, SEA assists other social enterprises with becoming more sustainable and impactful. Through its offering of various services and resources, SEA is committed to placing the interests of people and the planet above shareholder gain.
Organize Your Networking Schedule
There’s no doubt about it: The importance of networking in business is huge! The skill allows you to gain knowledge while helping you form long-lasting relationships that can greatly impact your business.
So just like you should invest in constant learning, you should also network regularly – and Practice makes it easy. Our Client Management Software helps you schedule regular check-ins with your network and keeps track of all those little details you don’t want to forget.
With our CRM, it’s easy to continue building valuable relationships that will lead to more business success! See for yourself by trying it out today.