Are Your Networking Efforts Falling Flat? Shake Things Up With These 5 Strategies. If your current networking strategies have proven to be ineffective, it's time to shake things up a bit. Here's how.

By Ibi Montesino

Key Takeaways

  • Professional networking is critical for small businesses, offering paths to new relationships, customer acquisition and growth.
  • Taking proactive steps like community involvement, targeted connections and online engagement can significantly boost a small business owner's networking efforts.
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Networking is an integral part of operating a small business, as it facilitates the development of relationships, the procurement of customers and the expansion of the company. Yet, professional networking can be daunting for small business owners. Engaging in professional networking can present a challenge for a startup company but may be critical to its success.

For individuals who have spent most of their careers in corporate settings, establishing new connections and enhancing their professional network are crucial for achieving their small business objectives. As an entrepreneur, it may be challenging to locate individuals within one's intimate circle. It is key to your success as a small business owner to develop your network, whether in person at networking meetings or virtually.

Related: 5 Surprising Benefits of Professional Networking That You Need to Know About

Networking is crucial to finding entrepreneurial support and customer leads

Networking plays an important role in the entrepreneurial process as it's an effective method for small business owners to establish new relationships and acquire new customers. Entrepreneurs can establish connections with others in their field, acquire invaluable support and insights, and ultimately improve their prospects for achieving success.

Let's look at the facts. An MIT study demonstrates that university-educated entrepreneurs who had large, active alumni networks were more successful, as measured by the number of employees and revenue associated with the companies they started. Further, according to research conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, for 78% of startups, networking is vital to entrepreneurial success.

For all those surveyed, active networking appears to have a positive impact on the performance of their businesses: The greater the number of networking activities entrepreneurs engage in — the study finds — the higher the chance of having a positive return in terms of profitability, revenue growth, innovation, capitalization and talent.

"All great companies — even those with iconic entrepreneurs — had many other people who were involved and, without whom, the company might not have made it so big," says Harvard Business School Professor Bill Sahlman in the online course Entrepreneurship Essentials.

Related: 3 Powerful Networking Strategies that Never Fail

It's okay to shake things up a bit!

If some of your recent networking actions have proven to be effective, you should continue with those strategies. But if your current networking strategies have proven to be ineffective, it merely indicates that it is time to shake things up a bit.

Consider the following:

  1. Get involved with your community: Being involved in your community as an entrepreneur is an excellent way to contribute back, establish fruitful business relationships and broaden the scope of your small business. It is critical to become involved in an endeavor that satisfies your personal values and beliefs and that you are genuinely enthusiastic about.

  2. Identify ways to increase your level of activity: Volunteer to serve on a committee or to assist with the planning and execution of an event. It will alter both the individuals with whom you interact and the manner in which you engage with the organization. Enhancing your visibility is another benefit; it demonstrates that you are an engaged leader and participant.

  3. Establish connections with the right people: Do you feel as though you're meeting the right people, but not connecting? Invite them to participate in activities that you and they share, such as fishing, tennis, running or eating. Experiencing enjoyable community events, such as a Farmers' Market or a music festival, is an additional way to connect with your network and give back to the local community.

  4. Inquire as to what your devoted consumers are attending: Is there a particular industry or field in which you wish to build your customer base? Consider organizations and events in those areas. Plan a few events that you would like to attend for the remainder of the year in advance so that you do not have to scramble to modify your schedule for the remainder of the year.

  5. Start online if you're not a natural in-person networker: Consider joining some new LinkedIn groups that require active participation. You may decide to launch a podcast with one (or more!) of your customers or seek article placements for the fall in trade publications where you aspire to be regarded as an authority. Alternatively, you may be more enthusiastic about writing or speaking.

Networking serves as a highly beneficial tool for optimizing opportunities for the growth and success of small businesses. As an entrepreneur, improving your business opportunities through networking is an indispensable ability. Establishing connections with industry experts expands one's professional network, which may include prospective clients, mentors and leads.

Ibi Montesino

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff

Ibi Montesino helps Herbalife deliver on its purpose to nourish the potential in everyone for a healthier future. She oversees functions that develop and deliver tools and programs that support its global independent distributors and their customers, while also serving as chief of staff.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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