In business, it often seems that the adage—it’s who you know, not what you know—remains true. Good business networking is part and parcel of success. Those who network well establish strong connections that can remain beneficial for years.
Good networking in business requires actively being a part of good business networking environments. Here are four to consider.
Types of Business Networking Opportunities
1. Online/social media networks
Online and social media networks are the easiest and fastest to get into for the businessperson. They don’t require going places, dressing up, and meeting people in the real world. They do require a little time investment in how you want to present yourself online. They also require regular investment (daily, weekly, monthly) in updating your online profiles and engaging with those you meet virtually.
According to Ivan Misner, founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, “With social media, the key to success is outlining a strategy that considers the amount of time you can realistically dedicate to your online marketing efforts and being consistent. Map out a weekly schedule that outlines specific days and times you’ll spend developing your social media strategy. Figure out what’s realistic and what makes sense for your company, and go from there.”
2. Professional/trade associations
No matter what industry you work in—law, marketing, retail, fashion, culinary, etc.—it’s likely that there are professional and trade associations that bring together likeminded individuals engaged in similar work. Trade associations often provide excellent training, educational opportunities, discounts on industry conferences, and other resources that extend beyond personal contact.
Being a part of such an organization can provide great opportunities to expand your career vertically and horizontally. Additionally, these networks can help you maintain key contacts with potential client sand target markets. In professional organizations, however, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd of people who are very similar to you. One of the best ways to do so is to find ways to help other members without selling to them. By doing so, you can become one of the associations’ “go-to” people, well-known for knowing how to do stuff.
3. Community service clubs
These types of professional networks are usually localized (city- or region-wide) and are focused on providing social good in their communities. You join one, not to benefit, but to contribute. By giving time and money to the community you live in and/or serve, you build up tremendous social capital and goodwill that can bode well for you in the future. You’ll also meet great people inside and outside of your industry along the way.
4. Casual contact networks
These types of networks are less industry-specific, and are more about getting to know people who are doing business in an informal manner. These networks usually hold monthly meetings and frequent mixers where people can have a conversation without any pressure—the focus is more on networking than it is on business.
Chambers of Commerce, in most cities across the country, are great places to start if you want to make some initial contacts with professionals who are doing business in your area. Casual contact networks are great for making initial contacts that you can sound out later for potential business networking opportunities.
The industry you’re in, and your personal level of comfort with engaging with new people, will likely dictate which type of network (or networks) you choose to invest time and energy in.