With the prevalence of the internet and complex technology for marketing and sales, many small business owners are tempted to shun good old fashioned networking in favour of more complex customer acquisition methods.
But just because something is new doesn't mean it's better.
There are many reasons why simple, face-to-face networking can still be incredibly fruitful for small businesses. Here are just a few.
1. Show the friendly face behind the brand
Business owners tend to work hard to develop a professional brand which relates to their target market and delivers on sales. However, sometimes it's good to let this façade down a little and expose the human behind the brand.
People who meet business owners face to face and get to know them may be more likely to remember the business and recommend it to others.
They may also feel more trust towards the business having spoken to a real person rather than simply reading corporate literature on a website or promotional leaflet.
2. Meet people who can help in future
Networking events are a brilliant way to meet business owners with different interests and areas of expertise that can be learned from.
By building relationships with others, business owners can turn to their business cards or email address book later when they need advice on specific issues.
Even better is if they follow up an event with a short email or phone call to cement and future-proof the new relationship.
3. Develop leads
One of the best reasons small businesses should network is to develop leads.
Business owners could meet someone at an event who turns into a customer. Alternatively, they could share their business card with someone who will pass it on to somebody else who may become a future customer.
Forming relationships with fellow business owners can result in brilliant word of mouth recommendations that ultimately lead to successful sales.
4. Scope out the competition
Networking allows small business owners to get juicy information on market competitors, which can help them stay ahead of the game.
Equally, networking with competitors and forming friendships can allow business owners to share industry knowledge to enable both parties to grow and succeed.
5. Meet potential employees
Networking with a wide range of people allows small businesses to come into contact with talented individuals who could make the perfect employees.
Even if there are no plans to hire now, business owners should keep an open mind and stay in touch with people they think they would love to work with, as they never know when they might need them.
6. Make friends
Running a small business can be incredibly stressful. Although socialising with friends is key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance, it can be difficult for those who always have their business on their minds and find that friends and family can't relate to them.
Pursuing friendships with fellow business owners allows socialising and business talk simultaneously.
Turning a business contact into a trustworthy friend can be incredibly valuable when you need a friendly ear and some solid business advice.