5 Tips for Using Networking to Grow Your Small Business

By MBO Partners | January 3, 2024

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Key Points

Build relationships to find new clients, discover potential partnerships, and benefit from new ideas and fresh perspectives.

Attend a networking event to connect with new people in your industry.

Network with your peers for business advice, client referrals, and potential partnerships.

Networking can be a powerful tool as an independent professional. By building relationships with peers and industry professionals, you can find new clients, discover potential partnerships, and benefit from new ideas and fresh perspectives. Whether you are connecting with people online or offline, consider making networking a regular part of your job to help boost your business visibility and find new customers this year.

1. Attend a Networking Event that Appeals to You

Networking events can be intimidating, but if you find the right one and put in some prep work, they can be a helpful way to meet new people in person. To find an event, check out industry groups and organizations you are already a part of. Most groups will have some sort of yearly event or talk that you can attend. If you want to stay local, look at LinkedIn or your Chamber of Commerce for events closer to home.

Before attending an event, take some time to prepare by reviewing your elevator pitch for your business. Try to keep the description of your services short and easy to understand. If you end up connecting with someone and having a longer conversation, you can always go into more detail. Bring business cards with you and don’t hesitate to exchange information with the people you talk to—even if you’re not sure if you will reach back out to everyone later.

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2. Reach Out to Industry Professionals Online

Lots of networking today can be done online through social channels. LinkedIn is probably the first place that comes to mind when thinking about a professional network, but there are plenty of groups on Facebook and professionals on Instagram or TikTok who are willing to connect as well.

If you’re not sure how to reach out to someone online, just start by sending a short message. Explain what drew you to their profile and why you’d like to connect. You might not get a response from everyone, and that’s okay. When someone does show an interest in connecting with you, follow up promptly with a question or comment to start to build a dialogue.

3. Get Comfortable Talking About Yourself

Talking about yourself and your business doesn’t come naturally to everyone. But the ability to talk about what you do with confidence and authority will truly work in your favor when it comes to networking. To get comfortable talking about business, start by writing down some words that describe your brand and what you offer. Then write down how you quantify the services you offer. What exactly are you offering to clients and why?

Then, try to put these descriptors into conversational terms by practicing talking to a friend or partner. Ask them to critique you and to point out things you might be missing when talking about your business or areas of confusion that might need to be simplified. Remember, when you talk about what you do in a networking setting, you will probably need to adjust your speech based on who you are talking to and their professional background.

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4. Build a Mentoring Relationship

Mentoring can be a great way to build a long-term relationship with a particular person. Depending on what point you are in your career, you might consider seeking out a mentor for yourself or becoming a mentor for others.

As a mentee you can receive guidance and support from someone in your industry—or related industry—that you look up to. As a mentor, you will be able to help another person grow their business, which often generates new ideas and valuable conversations. In both cases, mentorship is an opportunity to grow your network by connecting with another person’s business contacts.

5. Connect with Your Peers

Your peers are another great source when it comes to networking. Yes, they may work in totally different industries and may not all be self-employed, but there is still a lot of value to be had in forming these connections. A peer can offer valuable advice, listen to your ideas, or lend an ear to help you practice your business pitch.

Even if they work in another industry, the time might come when you partner with a peer on a bigger project because their specific skillset complements what you can offer a client. Or they might refer you to a client who needs your skills. Networking isn’t always about immediate gains. Investing the time to build relationships tends to pay off in the long run as you continue to connect and reach out to your contacts.

How to Network with Peers When You’re Self Employed

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