Starting a business is never easy, but having the right network in place can relieve some of the pressure. That’s why startup networking should be an essential part of your growth strategy.
By leveraging the power of startup networking, entrepreneurs can maximize their chances of success and growth in today’s competitive business landscape. But getting started by growing your network and finding the right people to interact with can be challenging.
Find out why startup networking matters for entrepreneurs and how to build the right network to drive business growth.
Why Is Networking Important for Entrepreneurs?
Networking for entrepreneurs is important for your business’ growth because it brings you in contact with people who can further your goals, whether that’s a future business partner, an investor, a client, a customer or simply a new, supportive friend. For many business owners, networking is a powerful tool for growth because it increases your visibility, builds your professional reputation and opens doors to new people and markets.
You also get to meet other entrepreneurs and potential mentors — people who can provide valuable business ideas, resources and opportunities to grow your startup. Additionally, connecting with peers reinforces your knowledge of the sector and the latest industry trends.
3 Steps to Finding the Right Startup Network
Different types of networks offer different benefits, and what’s best for you varies based on your stage of growth. Take these steps to find the right startup network for growing your business.
Define What You Want
Identify the business opportunities you want your network to support. An early-stage startup might be looking for a partner or investors, for example, while a late-stage startup might be seeking large clients, business partnerships or an acquirer. And at any point, you might be looking for community and support.
Once you’ve determined what you want from a small-business networking environment, use those criteria to guide your search for the right connections. For instance, a female founder looking for camaraderie and targeted educational opportunities might join a local women’s entrepreneur network.
Research Different Networking Groups
Identify the right networks for your startup by researching local startup groups, accelerators and incubators. LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms are a good starting point for discovering the types of networking groups out there, but don’t be afraid to invest in more specialty networks. Communities such as the Young Entrepreneur Council and WEConnect International can open doors to relationships with the right people to catapult your business to success.
Consider the benefits of joining each network and weigh them against the costs. For example, find out if the network provides access to potential investors, mentorship, advice and networking opportunities and how each network’s offerings stack up against your specific needs.
Get a Feel for What the Network Offers
Connect with members through online platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Introduce yourself and explain what you’re looking for from the network. Be proactive about building relationships with members. Ask questions about their experiences within the groups and how they’ve benefitted from the resources provided by the network.
Follow the network and its members on social media to get a better understanding of their activities and interactions. If there’s a trial period, take that opportunity to attend events organized by the network to get a better understanding of the people and content of the network before committing.
3 Ways to Maximize Networking Opportunities
Take Advantage of Events and Resources
Participating in startup networking events is a great way to meet and connect with other entrepreneurs or influencers in your community or industry. These events are often targeted toward specific groups, industries or stages of growth to help the right people make the most of their resources.
Live events, such as Baton Rouge Entrepreneur Week (BREW), often serve as a launchpad for connecting with people who can add value to your business for years to come. Finding opportunities that combine networking with education (like BREW) doubles the benefits of those resources.
Lean Into Virtual Connection Opportunities
A lot of networking organizations made their events virtual during the pandemic, and many still offer the chance to connect with peers and influencers in your community through online events. Virtual events offer opportunities to meet people outside your location who you may never meet in person.
Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are great tools to help you build your network and connect with others in your field. Find a platform that makes the most sense for your industry and remain active on it. Interact with people you meet during networking events to further the relationships.
Build a Lasting Community of Founders
Share contact information with the people you meet during networking events. Stay in touch via email, social or other channels, and occasionally reach out to ask for help or offer advice. If your connections are local, suggest the occasional one-on-one — not to sell something or pitch an investor but to build relationships.
Organize your new contacts based on their needs as well as what they have to offer so you can introduce them to people in your network who might benefit from knowing them (and vice versa). If you meet an entrepreneur looking for investors, for instance, and you know of investors looking to expand their portfolio, introducing them can help both parties and create a stronger community.
Grow Your Network and Your Business
Startup networking is key to success and growth in today’s competitive business landscape. Networking with other startups can help create partnerships, build relationships and share resources — producing a supportive community while propelling your business forward.