business networking tips and techniques for networking events and networking websites
Business networking is an effective low-cost marketing method for developing sales opportunities and contacts, based on referrals and introductions – either face-to-face at meetings and gatherings, or by other contact methods such as phone, email, and increasingly social and business networking websites.
The shortened term ‘networking’ can be confused with computer networking/networks, which is different terminology, relating to connection and accessibility of multiple computer systems.
A business network of contacts is both a route to market for you, and a marketing method. Business networking offers a way to reach decision-makers which might otherwise be very difficult to engage with using conventional advertising methods.
In addition, business networking brings with it the added advantage of recommendation and personal introduction, which are always very helpful for developing business opportunities.
Business networking is a way for you to make the maxim, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know..” work for you.
The principles and techniques of business networking are mostly common sense. Many of the behavioural principles apply also to business and relationships generally, and specifically to selling, managing, coaching, facilitating, etc.
(Please note that some spellings in UK-English and US-English may vary, for example words like organisation/organization, behaviour/behavior. When using these materials please change the spellings to suit your local situation.)
from ‘net work’ to network – introductory definitions and origins
The word network is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary (2005 revised edition) as: “Network (noun) 1 An arrangement of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines… 2 A group or system of interconnected people or things… (verb) 1 Connect or operate with a network… 2 (often as noun networking) Interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
Interestingly, the first definition above referring to a more general sense of a network, as might be used for a network of railways or a canal system, reminds that a network consists of connecting lines which run in different directions. Crucially a network – especially a business network – ceases to be a network if there are no connecting lines. Creating and maintaining good lines of communications, in all directions, is as important as developing contacts. We could say instead that there is really no point developing contacts unless good lines of communications are established and maintained.
The OED defines a networker as “…1 A person who operates from home or an external office via a computer network… 2 A person who uses a network of professional or social contacts to further their career.”
The first networker definition here originally referred to the use of a computer network, whereas nowadays the notion of working from home or elsewhere remotely has merged significantly with the more modern meaning of networking, in the sense of contacts and communications. The point is that while a computer is probably significant in most forms of home or remote working, what matters most these days is the networking itself (communications and relationships), rather than there being a specific dependence on a computer network.
The 1922 OED explains that network entered the English language by 1560, simply from the words ‘net work’, which referred to the act or process of fabricating a net from threads or wires.
These separated root words, ‘net work’, are very apt today. ‘Net Work’ remind us of the vital aspects of modern successful networking, by which ideally:
- we work (apply thought, commitment, effort)
- to create, grow, use, assist and enable
- our own net (network) of contacts.
A good network is created, and networking succeeds, by the application of hard work.
A network without the work produces nothing worthwhile.
Further useful points can be drawn from, and are explained in the more detailed origins and definitions of network and networking, which appear below in the summary of this article.
business networking – quick tips summary
Here are ten of the most important principles for effective business networking. More details are linked from each tip to bigger explanations below.
Consider that all sorts of professional people outside of the business community can also be very helpful networking contacts – for example, scientists, lecturers, educators, councillors, etc. When developing your networking plans, think beyond the people you’d typically see at other business networking events. Some of the most important connections are not business people, and consequently you need to be creative in reaching them. The examples of networking situations/methods below provides help with this later.
These tips apply broadly to any sort of business networking – face-to-face, organized events, business social networking websites, etc:
ten essential principles
|1. Elevator speech.||Describe yourself concisely and impressively.|
|2. Be different.||Differentiate yourself. Aim high. Be best at something.|
|3. Help others.||Help others and you will be helped.|
|4. Personal integrity.||Integrity, trust and reputation are vital for networking.|
|5. Relevant targeting.||Groups and contacts relevant to your aims and capabilities.|
|6. Plans and aims.||Plan your networking – and know what you want.|
|7. Follow up.||Following up meetings and referrals makes things happen.|
|8. Be positive.||Be a positive influence on everyone and everything.|
|9. Sustained focused effort.||Be focused – and ever-ready.|
|10. Life balance.||Being balanced and grounded builds assurance.|