9 useful networking connections and how to make them
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 13 September 2022 | Published 3 January 2022
Updated 13 September 2022
Published 3 January 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Networking is an important skill for anyone working in business. For entrepreneurs, building and creating networking connections can be valuable for winning new business, increasing sales or improving ways of doing business. But networking can also help anyone in the world of work, whether you're looking for a new job or hoping to improve your performance in your current role. In this article, we explore the benefits of a strong network and provide some examples of the most useful networking connections to make.
What are networking connections?
Networking connections are people you meet in your professional life, who you build relationships with for the purposes of sharing information, contacts, skills and experience. Building a strong professional network can help to grow your business by introducing you to new suppliers or increasing your access to new customers and clients. If you're an employee, you can use network building to improve relationships with clients, win new clients for your company and improve relationships with suppliers. It can also improve your career progression, either by improving your performance at work or helping you find a new role.
You can do networking at special events that help connect people in the same industries and areas of work. You can also do effective networking on your own, by ensuring you establish a strong list of contacts and communicate effectively and regularly to maintain your network and its benefits.
Related: Networking tips for job seekers
Why are networking connections important?
Business is about developing and maintaining strong relationships. These relationships can help your business to increase sales or become more efficient, cutting costs or improving aspects of production. There are often mutual benefits for both parties in the relationship. For example, a strong business relationship with a recruitment consultant can lead to a regular supply of strong candidates in your business, while for the recruiter, your relationship can be a reliable source of commission payments.
It can be difficult to make progress in business without taking the time to develop strong communication skills and work on building your professional network. The quality of your communication skills and the trusted business relationships you develop are likely to have a significant impact on the long-term success and growth of your business. An entrepreneur or business person who spends time developing relationships in all areas of their business and nurturing their established network may see their network expand and their business thrives.
Important types of networking connections
Professionals can make many different types of connections, so it may be beneficial to consider which are most important for their work. Consider this list of different types of network connections:
Your suppliers might include those who provide you with the raw materials to manufacture your products or those who can offer services to enhance your products and market them more effectively. Suppliers could include graphic designers, photographers, printers or suppliers of packaging. Over-reliance on a single supplier can lead to issues in the future if the supplier raises their prices or if their products or services become unavailable.
It's useful to develop a list of suppliers for the different areas of your business and communicate regularly with them. In doing so, you may be able to switch suppliers or commission work from a new supplier quickly and easily if you need to.
If your business relies on small numbers of customers who make regular orders or order high-value products or services, then they are an important part of your business network. If you take steps to ensure your customers are happy and your company is meeting all of their needs, they might be more likely to continue doing business with you or to purchase from you again in the future.
Understanding your competitors can be a useful exercise for developing your business. Signing up for newsletters and taking notice of their advertising, pricing and range of products could help increase your awareness of your market and shape your offer. Introducing yourself and developing relationships with your competitors can take your business a step further. If your business relies on your availability, for example as a builder, plumber, designer or photographer, you may be able to send customers their way if you're too busy. Likewise, if they're unable to fulfil an order or enquiry, they may send business to you.
Many industries have professional networks or associations that you might be able to join, helping you to meet and communicate with other businesses. Taking the time to do some research on your local competitors and contacting them can also be a useful way of improving your network.
Although recruiters are a type of supplier, they play a special role in helping you to develop your business, and fostering good relationships with a trusted recruiter can be of great value to your company. Recruiters will be keen to win and maintain your business, so it's important to choose wisely which recruiters you develop a relationship with. If you find an arrangement that works, it can help you find the best candidates for roles in your company.
If you're looking to promote your business and gain greater exposure for your products and services, it might be useful to develop relationships with figures from the media in your area, including local newspapers, radio and television. This can also extend to websites, blogs and social media channels in your industry sector. Media contacts might be able to help place an advertisement or publish a story that helps you to reach a new audience.
If you run your own business, at some point you are likely to need to enlist the services of a professional such as a solicitor, lawyer or accountant. These networks can also be useful if you're employed by a company, or in your personal life. As well as carrying out work for your business that you might be unable to do yourself, a strong network of professional service providers may be able to offer informal advice or recommendations for other suppliers in a different sector.
You or your business may be apolitical, but there are still likely to be plenty of political issues that can affect your business. Local politicians make decisions that can have a significant impact on local businesses, including planning, licensing and other local affairs. As a part of the local community, it can be useful if local politicians and councillors know you and your business so that you can raise any issues or questions with them in the future if necessary.
The value of personal relationships in business can be easy to overlook. As your career develops, so do those of your friends and relatives, and that network could become useful to you in the future. Finding a way to work with or for friends can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience and these networks can be especially useful if you work in the same or similar industry sectors. When working with family members or friends, ensure your business dealings are strictly professional to increase your productivity.
If you work for a company, keeping track of your previous colleagues and their career progression can be useful for the future. You may want to apply for a role and you realise one of your previous colleagues now works for the business you want to apply to. You also may wish to return to your old employer in a different capacity in the future. If you have started your own business, previous colleagues could become suppliers, employees or even future business partners. Strong relationships and a good reputation with previous colleagues can help to progress your career or your business.
How can I improve my networking connections?
There are plenty of ways to start building your network or improving your existing network connections. The most important thing to work on is your communication skills. Good networking relies on strong communication and your ability to build relationships. Your network connections are more likely to improve and strengthen if you can show yourself to be trustworthy, reliable, skilled and knowledgeable in your area of work.
Some things you can do to build and strengthen your professional network connections include:
sign up for local networking events
follow industry accounts on social media and sign up for newsletters
attend industry conferences
join online job groups and websites
be active in your local community
introduce yourself to competitors
maintain contact with previous colleagues
search for new suppliers
share your knowledge and experience with others in your network
make introductions between mutual connections
work on your verbal and written communication skills
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