Published on Oct 6, 2015

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Did you know 86 per cent of all small businesses get their business through networking?

Research has shown small and medium enterprises (SME) in regional Australia are “a major source of prosperity and employment” critical to the resilience of the communities they operate in.  Underpinning the sustainability and profitability of regional SMEs is innovation and knowledge sharing borne out of strong networks.

As they say – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.  Networking is a fundamental component of any marketing mix.  Taking part in networking events can create connections that boost businesses’ profile and performance, particularly in business-to-business  marketing.

Cessnock City Council Economic Development Manager Jane Holdsworth said many networking events are either free or attract a nominal cost to attend, making them a great option for businesses with limited marketing budgets.

“Joining the right networks and attending the right events is a quick and inexpensive way to build recognition and identify new leads,” Ms Holdsworth said.

“New businesses can really benefit from getting their names and faces out in the business community.  It can help them to understand the markets they are operating in and give insight into how they might add value or differentiate their product or service.

“In the case of established businesses, networking is also important for maintaining relationships and sharing knowledge and best practice.”

Ms Holdsworth said when it comes to networking it’s important to remember that mere attendance is not what creates value.

“Networking events should been seen as business opportunities, not as social events.  It is up to businesses to put in the work to make sure they get the most out of them,” Ms Holdsworth said.

“My advice is to always attend events with clear and measurable goals in mind – be it to gather 10 business cards or make three appointments.  With the right strategy in place businesses can realise real growth through networking.”

Tips to get the most out of networking

  • Be strategic.  Not every networking opportunity is right for every business.  Trade events are more niche than broader business community events.  Making sure your business interests align with those of your networks is key.
  • Don’t be shy.  Networking events are no place for wall flowers.  The purpose is to get your name and face out there so be prepared to press the flesh, meet new people and make a good first impression.
  • Stay in touch.  You gathered those business cards, now put them to use.   A quick follow up to reinforce connections made at networking events can help ensure you stay in the front of your new connections’ minds.  A simple email sharing some information about topics, products or services discussed is a great way to demonstrate that you have a real interest in building a mutually beneficial relationship.

 

Make the most of your local networks by registering to attend Council’s business networking function at the Hunter Valley Visitor Centre on 13 October 2015.  Use the online registration form to book your place now!