Ireland Together’s advisor Eva Acton explains the 6 types of networking you can get involved in to build your business
Starting and running your own business can be a lonely experience. Networking is a proven way for you to extend your business reach, enabling you to build professional relationships, foster contacts, and market your business to others.
Below I have outlined the 6 different types of networking you can get involved in to build your business.
- Casual Contacts Networking
- Strong Contacts Networking
- Professional Associations
- Social Media
- Community Service Clubs
- Personal networks
Casual Contacts Networking
e.g. Chambers of Commerce, Network Ireland, Women’s Irish Network, LEO Networks (Local Enterprise Office)
The purpose of these types of networking events is not focused on getting referral business but establishing contacts: meeting people in your local or wider community who you can build mutually beneficial relationships with.
Some of these networks require a membership subscription but it is usually quite small and goes back into organising the network events or to charity.
Strong Contacts Networking
e.g. BNI (Business Network International)
The BNI is more focused on referral business. They meet weekly, limit membership and members have a 60 second slot to talk about their business. You will be establishing powerful long-term relationships here by carrying out 1-2-1 meetings.
Membership of BNI is quite expensive (600-700e per year)
Most industries have some form of Professional Association. These are industry specific networking e.g. Banking, Pharmaceutical, Accounting, etc, the purpose being to exchange information and ideas.
Getting involved with these for your industry can be an invaluable networking tool.
Social Media networking is a 2 -way channel where you have an opportunity to build a rapport with clients and potential clients, it helps to put a human face to the product or brand. The relationship building here is visible so, inconsistencies and absences are more obvious.
The ones we are very familiar with are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.
Community Service Clubs
e.g. Lions Club, Volunteer Ireland, or Community Work Ireland
These types of organisations are not set up for business networking but focused on service to the community. However, participation results in lasting relationships broadening your personal and business network.
Membership costs of these organisations is minimal if anything.
There is another important network outlet that we have not mentioned so far and that is your own personal networks. These can be your family and friends, your mentors, ex work colleagues, old college friends, your choir, your tennis club, your golf buddies, your hairdresser …. the list is endless!!! Make sure they know what you do, they can be your advocates to their networks, and they will be a loyal bunch of supporters!
Finally, do remember that networking is about cultivating relationships with people. It is about building the credibility of your brand and that does not happen overnight.