Building your business: Focusing on networking

Whether you’ve previously engaged with local businesses on a face-to-face basis or now looking for ways to reach out to your local community, location is no longer a barrier. As businesses have adapted to virtual meetings and online networking groups, there’s plenty of ways you can meet like-minded people, share business tips and network safely during COVID-19.

Reach out to your local Networking Groups

As noted by British BIDs, a BID (Business Improvement District) is a business-led and business funded body formed to improve a defined commercial area. There’s often a membership fee which goes towards a variety of improvement projects, but being a member comes with many benefits such as helping decide what improvements need to be made in the local community, enhanced marketing and promotion, networking opportunities and sometimes, reduced business rates.

Many BID’s are now hosting events online, so location is no longer a barrier. For information about BIDs in your local area, visit British BIDs.

BNI is another great networking organisation and one of the largest in the world. Not only do they support with business networking opportunities, they offer professional development and exclusive member resources. You can attend a ‘chapter meeting’ to see if it fits with your business ambitions and whether it has the right connections. Only one member for each specialism is allowed to join to avoid competition amongst its members.

Also check out Chambers of Commerce and it’s worth looking more locally as there are plenty of groups out there – you can search for events on Meetup and Eventbrite.

Consistency is key

Whatever groups you sign up to, consistency and commitment are needed in order to grow your network, develop relationships and become the industry expert in your area. Don’t go in for the hard sell, but actively participate and offer guidance and support when appropriate and relevant to your business. Of course, highlight those businesses that would be useful to start conversations with, and think more widely than what the people in your network do – they may be able to introduce you to other useful contacts.

Using LinkedIn to build your contacts and network like a pro

LinkedIn has over 28 million users in the UK, but are you getting the most out of the opportunity? It’s a great way to not only build your profile as an industry professional and share your work, but it’s a great platform to interact with like-minded individuals.

We’re probably all a bit guilty of accepting invitations from people across a range of industries, without giving it too much thought. But if you’re going to really use LinkedIn as a networking tool, consider who you’re going to reach out to and how might they help you achieve your goals. Remember to personalise your invite as it’s far more likely to get read and opens up the conversation.

Write and share useful content

If you’re already writing content for your website, be that a blog or articles and guides, then make sure you get these published on LinkedIn too. It’ll give you a professional voice and allow you to become a thought leader in your space.

Engage and interact

Much like you would on Facebook, like, comment and share posts that you find of interest and relate to your own business and values. If you’re hosting an online event, it’s a great place to share, but why not join and share events from those in your network.