What Is Business Networking?
Business networking has been around almost as long as business itself, even if the term itself is much more recent. It's perfectly understandable, anyone who's selling a product wants to sell more of it and is looking for new markets and new customers, and networking and exchanging information and contacts with others in business is an excellent way to generate leads and possible future sales.
Perhaps the most basic type of networking is handing out a business card, the kind of gladhanding that seemed typical a few decades ago. These days, however, that's very small potatoes and unsophisticated. Business has moved on.
In-Person Business NetworkingThe most common type of networking is at an event, often arranged by an organisation, or by a company that specialises in these things and charges a fee for membership. Groups will meet regularly, probably once a month. It's often over breakfast or lunch, giving business people, most of whom will be involved in the sales side of the business, a chance to develop relationships with others.
Think of it as schmoozing, if you will, but it's very effective for putting together a network of contacts that can lead to greater sales for everyone. Another company may need what you're selling, or know of someone else who does and give you a referral. It's much easier than the traditional cold calling method of selling, and has a much higher success rate.
More than that, it helps you establish a host of business relationships. It can also be a good way for people to improve their presentation skills in informal settings - often small groups will meet outside the larger group. Rotary clubs, for instance, often host these kind of business meetings, and there are quite a number of businesses that make their money solely from organising networking events.
Although many are regional, by the necessity of distance, there are also national and even European networking events for businesses and business people.
Of course, there are also larger events, such as trade shows and conferences, which offer huge networking opportunities, exposing your business to hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers. Although it costs money, often a lot of money, to take part in these, it can pay off handsomely in sales.
Online NetworkingThere's been a revolution in online business networking since the advent of social networks. Although several are aimed more at the young, there are a number, such as LinkedIn, that are geared primarily for the business community. It's a good, cheap way to promote a business and create a very wide, global range of contacts.
Businesses are also starting to investigate the use of virtual worlds, such as Second Life, by setting up and maintaining a presence there, and for some it's proved to be a good move, a way of opening up new, real world markets.
For the moment, this is a field that's still continually alive with new possibilities, ranging from blogs to instant messaging as business tools for networking.