Networking for success – it’s not as scary as you think!
If you dread the idea of networking to build your business – don’t! Networking, collaborating, partnering or whatever you like to call it can be one of the best ways to build up your business. And you know what? It’s fun too! Yes, you read that right – FUN! I speak from experience. As the owner of a successful maternity, newborn and family photography business that I’ve built from scratch, I’ve had to put myself out there and make links within the community and with other business owners. Being somewhat of an introvert at heart, at first I found this daunting. But I soon learned that there was nothing to fear and heaps to gain. So, in this blog I want to share my top networking tips with you to help you navigate the world of networking and thrive in business.
What is networking and why bother?
Networking isn’t about simply exchanging information in the hope of making a sale. It’s about building up meaningful relationships with on- or -off-line communities, wherever you are and wherever you go. When starting a business, there’s a temptation to play your cards close to your chest in case someone tries to ‘steal’ your ideas or business plan. This is counter-intuitive; it’s a fact that people like to connect, and networking is proven as one of the fastest ways to build up your business.
How to start networking
Social media is one of the best and easiest places to begin. Join your local community pages and when there’s an opportunity to connect, do so. Keep an eye out for small business conferences and networking events and make sure you attend. These are often a valuable source of information and allow you to expand your network. Take along some printed business cards and hand them out to anyone you connect with – next time they’re looking for a business offering like yours, they’re more likely to think of you.
Give a little to get a little
When building up your business, it’s a good idea to offer up a few freebies or advice to others. You could also offer up some prizes for a charitable event of school fayre. This helps to build trust in you as a person and your business or brand. When someone asks for recommendations, make sure you name drop people in your network. Slowly but surely, they’ll start to do the same to you and we all know that word of mouth is the best form of recommendation.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
‘No man is an island’ and no matter how talented you are, you’re unlikely to be able to do everything yourself. Sit down and be honest with yourself. What are your skills? What can you realistically do yourself? What do you not enjoy or have the time for? Once you’ve got a list together, you can decide who in your network to outsource to. I love my newborn photography business but there was a time when I was drowning in social media feeds and admin. This was taking me away from my passion so I consulted with my network, got some recommendations and outsourced. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made!
Seek out and partner with businesses that complement your offering
By expanding your network, you can potentially improve your service offering to your clients. If you’re a florist, for example, team up with a cake maker and photographer to offer an all-in-one package. Through Lifestylephoto I’ve partnered up with so many businesses such as makeup artists, hairdressers, fashion boutiques and pre-and post-natal massage services. All of these businesses complement my maternity and newborn photography and allow me to give my clients a more comprehensive service. Simplify things for your clients and they’ll love you for it - trust me. Oh, and did I mention that I now consider many of these partners to be my friends? I think it’s safe to say that I’m winning.
Check out all my current partnerships on my Facebook page, and get in touch if you’d like to network with me.