Business Networking is crucial to the success of your business. Building a foundational web of contacts, support and resources can be the difference between success and moderate success, or success and failure.
If you are new to online business, Internet marketing, or the business of doing business, you may not be as familiar as you should be with business networking. Let’s discuss this very important aspect of doing business, especially as it relates to business online.
The term business networking refers to the practice of people spreading knowledge of their business, products, and services to others in a manner that leaves a good impression, lets people recall you and your business, and encourages the formation of strategic alliances. It is a process of meeting and familiarizing yourself with others, and building relationships that are important to the success and profitability of your business.
Most Internet marketers and entrepreneurs quickly come to realize that in order to grow their businesses, they needed to engage in business networking for all of the same reasons offline businesses do – sharing services, forming partnerships to help promote one another, building sources of support, and expanding their reach and resources. This is really the crux of business networking, to form alliances which translate to mutually beneficial relationships.
Even though some entrepreneurs have years of business and professional experience offline, for whatever reason, they often ignore the practice of networking when becoming engaged in online business. This may be due to their unfamiliarity or inexperience with the Internet, where they may not immediately grasp its fundamental principle. After all, the Internet is networking; the ultimate means of sharing of information.
Business Networking is an activity. Its purpose is to find and build upon connections and relationships that will benefit you and your business. Period. It requires the active participation of the parties involved, and it includes connecting with other people who may be your peers, potential mentors, individuals who have similar business interests, or people who have other things in common with you.
You will likely discover various benefits of networking. These may include new sources of support, added business knowledge, and increased financial resources, however, always be clear in your understanding that the end goal of your networking is to find what benefits you and helps you to succeed.
There are numerous business networks in existence, both online and offline, where members may share special privileges and benefits. For example, a network may encourage members to share or exchange services among one another within the network for reduced fees, in comparison to what is available to outsiders.
Some networks are more formal than others, sometimes having administrators who coordinate activities and events within the organization, enforce governing bylaws of the membership, or collect membership fees annually. Other networks may not actually conduct business within themselves, but serve to gather people of like interests and bring them together. Meet-up.com is one such business network, and allows its online members who share the same interests and location to actually meet face to face.
Now that we know what networking is and some of its benefits, let’s take a look at networking online, beginning with a quick glance at social networking.
Social Networking – The last two years have seen a substantial rise of social network activity and the growth of related sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace among others.
Since its purchase by Google, YouTube, has continued to become an immensely popular success story. The site allows amateurs, with little knowledge of the web and no software to download to facilitate participation, and literally anyone with a camcorder or camera/video phone to upload personal videos online and make an impression.
YouTube started as a place for friends and families to share videos, but with time, businesses and entrepreneurs began to see the importance of using YouTube to facilitate marketing and business networking. At the close of whatever type of video, publishers simply embed links or other contact information for their businesses or websites. With the immense volume of traffic to YouTube, this has developed into an extremely effective tactic. Social network sites exemplify the concept of viral marketing at its best.
Let’s look at another example. Facebook is another hugely popular site where friends can share interests, information, sell goods and services to each other, upload photos and videos and even join existing networks. Businesses which join Facebook, enter a world of virtually limitless opportunities and potential leads. As a result of their activities, members can experience a phenomenal surge in traffic to their websites or businesses.
The most important thing to remember about the advantages of online networking is that you can position yourself and your business to benefit from worldwide contacts and relationships, the potential of which is immensely greater than that to which you may otherwise be exposed. And the results of those connections can develop exponentially within short periods of time.
One last thing. In dealing with online networking (where you may rarely have the opportunity of meeting your partners face-to-face), it is especially important to focus on three fundamentals of good business: professionalism, courtesy and great customer service.
Excellent customer service skills can mean the difference in whether or not your business is recommended or selected for a contract or project. It also leaves a lasting impression on the people with whom you come into contact, helping them to remember you. With numerous online sites and portals, many businesses are engaged in competition with one another, and what may very well be a distinguishing factor is customer service and courtesy.
A few tips for business networking:
1. Create A Website-If your main business is offline, create an online presence with a website featuring an easy means of contacting you. Most offline businesses have now realized the advantages of having an online presence. A very large proportion of business is now conducted online and people usually go online to research a company before they conduct any business with it. These days, without a business website, it is impossible to fully tap into the benefits of business networking.
2. Business Cards-It may seem an archaic concept, but business networking, even for online businesses, should not be confined to the Internet. In order to succeed in networking, a business representative should have business cards as part of their marketing plan, which contain the basic elements of the business’s contact information.
3. Be Skilled In Customer Service-As stated earlier, customer service can make or break a company. With numerous businesses competitors, a crucial aspect is customer service.
4. Join Social Networks Online-We cited Facebook, YouTube, and My Space as excellent sites to join in order to generate exposure to your business, and there are of course many others including common interest groups and forums.
Business networking is of utmost necessity if you are to grow your business in this immensely competitive environment. In many ways, the Internet has leveled the playing field so that small business organizations can effectively compete among each other, and against larger entities. Use this to your advantage. Create your own immense business webs. Spiderman has nothing on you.