In our two decades of digital marketing, we’ve seen buzzwords come and go. Every time a new technology or strategy comes along, businesses are eager to jump on board and try it out.
Sometimes it’s because they genuinely believe it will help their business grow, and sometimes it’s because they think it’s the latest and greatest thing that everyone else is doing, so they need to do it too.
More often than not, the latter is true of business networking. It seems like everywhere you turn, someone is telling you to be networking if you want your business to succeed. What does that mean? Does it work?
This article will explore the pros and cons of business networking, so you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth your time and effort.
What is business networking?
Networking has been around for centuries, in one form or another. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” (Although there is some debate in academic circles about whether Aristotle actually said this, the sentiment is still valid.)
The idea is that two or more people working together can achieve more than they could working alone.
In a business context, networking refers to building relationships with other business owners and professionals to exchange information and resources. It’s not just about making new contacts but also about developing and maintaining relationships with people who can help you achieve your business goals.
Business growth expert Verne Harnish says, “Dreams are great. A strong network is fantastic. A clearly defined brand is awesome. None of it matters if you can’t execute.”
Do you see how business networking fits into this? It’s not just about making new contacts and collecting business cards. It’s about developing relationships with people who can help you achieve your business goals.
So, why network?
The most obvious reason to network is to meet new people who can help you grow your business. These could be customers, suppliers, or business partners.
For example, if you’re a small business owner, you might network with other small business owners to find new customers or suppliers or get advice and feedback on your products or services.
Or, if you’re a freelance consultant, you might network with other consultants to find new clients or referral partners.
Perhaps you’re just getting started and need to build your reputation and credibility. In that case, you might network with people who can give you advice, introductions, or opportunities to showcase your work.
No matter what your business goals are, there is probably a way that business networking can help you achieve them.
Here are the three main types of business networking:
- In-person networking
- Online networking
- Social media networking
In-person networking is the most traditional and well-known form of business networking. It involves regularly attending events like trade shows, conferences, seminars, or workshops. It can also involve joining professional or trade organizations and attending their events. For example, Mozcon, the who’s who of SEO:
The Moz community is full of great people that make incredible networking connections, and now you can be at the center of it all, in person, in Seattle.— Moz (@Moz) June 6, 2022
Get to know new people while exploring Seattle during #MozCon with our evening events: https://t.co/sur3OzUe0K
The benefits of in-person networking are that you can build relationships more quickly and effectively than online, and you’re more likely to make a lasting impression. You can also get immediate feedback and reactions to your products or services.
The downside of in-person networking is that it can be time-consuming and expensive to travel to events. It can also be difficult to find the right events to attend.
Can’t attend #JSNation in-person in Amsterdam? No worries.— JSNation Conference 🗓 June 16 & 20 (@thejsnation) May 23, 2022
The benefits of online networking are that it’s more convenient and less expensive than in-person networking. You can also reach a wider audience more easily and have more business opportunities than if you were confined to one place.
The downside of online networking is that it can be difficult to build relationships and trust with people you’ve never met in person. It’s also easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and opportunities available online.
Social media networking
Social media networking involves using social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook to build relationships and exchange information.
The benefits of social media networking are that it’s convenient and easy to use. You can also reach a large audience quickly and easily. For instance, the following Networking for Female Entrepreneurs event on Facebook:
The downside of social media networking is that it’s easy to get lost in the noise and miss important opportunities. It can also be difficult to build deeper, more meaningful relationships online.
Now that you know what business networking is and a brief overview of the three main types, let’s dive into the pros and cons.
The benefits of business networking
There are many potential benefits to networking, both for individuals and for businesses. Here are some of the most important ones:
1. It can help you get new customers or clients.
If you want your business to grow, you need to find new customers or clients. And one of the best ways to do that is through networking.
When you meet someone new, you have the opportunity to tell them about your business and what you do. They may decide to use your services or buy your products if they’re interested.
2. It can help you find new suppliers or partners.
Another way to grow your business is by finding new suppliers or partners. Networking can help you meet potential suppliers or partners who can provide the goods or services you need to run your business.
For example, if you’re a small business owner, you might network with other small business owners to find a new accountant or lawyer.
3. It can help you get advice and feedback.
When you’re running a business, it’s essential to get advice and feedback from people who have been there before.
Networking can help you connect with experienced business owners and professionals who can offer advice and feedback on your business decisions.
This can be invaluable, especially for new business owners who are still learning the ropes.
But, by partnering with someone who has experience in your industry, you can avoid making costly mistakes and maybe even see a little personal growth.
- increased confidence – When you get advice from someone who knows what they’re talking about, it can give you the confidence to make decisions and take action.
- improved decision-making – When you get advice from people with experience, you can learn from their mistakes and make better decisions for your business.
Business networking can help you in many other ways, too. It can help you find a new job, get funding for your business, or even meet new friends.
4. It can help you find a job.
Networking is one of the best ways to find openings that aren’t advertised to the general public if you’re looking for a job. As you can see in the tweet below, many job-seekers are opting to search for jobs by networking alone:
Many job seekers say they are turning to invite-only networking forums on Slack to land new roles—often much faster than they would have through traditional job-application methodshttps://t.co/SyiX0qbhuq— Anthony DeRosa (@Anthony) May 31, 2022
When you network with people in your field, they may be able to put you in touch with someone who’s hiring. Or they may be able to give you advice on your job search.
5. It can help you make connections.
In business, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. And networking can help you meet the right people.
And this opens the door to all sorts of opportunities, like getting funding for your business, finding a new job, or even making new friends.
These connections can come in handy when you’re looking for a new job, looking for advice or feedback, or trying to find new customers or suppliers.
It’s about meeting people and making connections!
So get out there, hand out business cards like they’re candy, and start networking! But before you do, keep reading to learn about the potential downsides of business networking.
The downsides of business networking
Of course, there are also some potential drawbacks to business networking. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. It can be time-consuming.
Networking takes time. You have to invest time in building relationships with people. If you’re running a business, this can take time away from other vital tasks, such as working on your product or marketing your business.
Unfortunately, networking events are often held during business hours, so you may have to take time off from work to attend them. Plus business networking may not have as high of an ROI as you may like:
Things I’ve learned by analyzing my time:— WinningSolo (@WinningSolo) October 12, 2021
– I spent too much time reading newsletters
– I could get much more efficient at blogging
– Most networking events have a poor ROI
As freelancers, our time is our inventory. We can’t maximize it without first measuring it.
If you’re one of those professionals worth more when you’re working (instead of eating lunches with strangers), business networking may not be for you.
2. It can be expensive.
If you’re joining networking groups or attending events, there may be membership fees or other costs involved. This can be a problem for small businesses or startups on a tight budget.
Before attending networking events, check to see if there’s a fee and whether it’s worth the price.
3. You may not meet the right people.
When you’re networking, you never know who you’ll meet. And sometimes, you may not meet anyone who’s interested in your business or can help you in some way.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Every contact you make is an opportunity to practice your elevator pitch and learn more about what you do.
But if you’re looking for specific connections, such as customers or suppliers, you may not find them at every networking event you attend.
4. You may have to schmooze.
If you’re introverted or shy, business networking may not be for you. Networking events can often be overwhelming, and they may require you to schmooze with people you don’t know.
This can be a problem if you’re not comfortable talking to strangers or working a room full of people.
5. You may get too many sales pitches.
Let’s be honest here. Most people attend business networking events to make sales. And if you’re not careful, you may end up getting a sales pitch from everyone you meet. Here’s some advice from ABCs For Prosperous Minds:
Never attend networking events thinking it’s all about you, it’s not. Networking is not a sales pitch where you force others to listen to you talk about yourself. pic.twitter.com/omwgqZy6Ps— ABCs For Prosperous Minds (@AbcMinds) September 29, 2021
This can be annoying, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re selling. But it’s a good way to practice your elevator pitch and learn how to politely say no.
6. You may have to deal with rejection.
When you’re networking, you’ll inevitably meet people who aren’t interested in what you have to say.
This can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that not everyone you meet will be potential customers or clients. Don’t take it personally, and don’t let rejection discourage you from networking.
7. You may not see results right away.
Networking is a long-term strategy, so don’t expect to see immediate results. It can take months or even years to build relationships and reap the benefits of networking.
Sure, you can talk to people until you’re blue in the face, but if you’re not making genuine connections, networking won’t do you any good.
If you’re a smaller business and have to dish out to attend these events with no ROI, it might not be worth your time to keep networking.
So is business networking worth it?
The answer depends on your situation. If you’re a small business owner or startup, business networking can be a great way to find new customers and suppliers, get advice and feedback, and make connections.
But it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks, such as the time and expense involved. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether business networking is right for your business.
Here at BlakSheep Creative, the ends don’t justify the means. That’s not to say we’re hermits and don’t ever leave our desks, but if there’s no intention or goal set prior to attending an event, we’re not going. We’d rather put our time and energy (not to mention money) into something with a higher chance of yielding results.
So what do you think? Is business networking worth the effort? Are you regularly networking? Or are you of the mindset that it’s not for you? Let us know in the comments below!