When you work from home you'll often hear talk about how important it is to join a group or community activity to interact with like minded individuals to help with the work at home blues. But it's time to explore the option of networking, which is different then groups or community activities. Networking events or functions, meet ups or gatherings; whichever fancy title it's given is usually with Business to Business connections looking for how they can help you and how they can utilize your services to help themselves. As a home agent, from the owner to a contractor and every position in between you can use networking as a way to expand your service, increase your social media reach, and develop new business to business relationships.
There are several different types of networking groups and organizations. There is the membership groups, Barter Groups, Local - National - Global, and Online Meeting Groups. These groups can be divided by large to small business, race, age, sex, types of businesses, and social standings. When you consider what group or groups you want to start networking with you must first analyze the difference in these groups and what you are looking to gain and share to the group that will benefit you and the members in attendance.
Membership Groups look for individuals who offer specific services. They are chartered throughout different states and usually only allow one type of company per club to be represented in each chapter (i.e. if you are a Realtor you will be the only Realtor allowed in that chapter). Membership dues play a big part of their program because they advertise for you throughout their members and add you to their website and other media for exposure creating an instant business catalog for members to use when they require services. The pro to this type of Networking is there is a likeness that members will contact you if they need your service instead of going outside the group to help keep the relationship in the group strong and worth the money spent in dues.
BN Groups are a way for you to save your cash, and use your products or services as a trade for products or service you will need from another member. Members can purchase needed goods and services with incremental sales of their own products and services. Barter Network's allow your business to say how much your service is worth and you use that amount in exchange of cash, so if your service is worth $500 and you need website development services from another member and they charge $800 for what you need you would only have to pay $300 to complete the transaction. Most BN groups allow you to trade one service but you do not need to trade the service with the same company, Example, if I bartered website services from AB Company, but AB Company didn't need my services in ad campaign design, that's ok they can still barter their $800 for travel services from I Travel International. The benefit to BN groups speaks for itself. It's an awesome way for you to get the products or services your business needs without coming out of pocket with upfront cost. You can also create long term business relations with someone who barters with you if they need to reuse your service or reorder your products.
Local Networking functions usually appeals to the local businesses who want to get to know their neighbors more, rub elbows, and find ways to benefit from a Business to Business relationship. Local Networking can take place monthly, met at different locations, and tend to have the same businesses attend.
National Networking is much different from local. This usually will include large businesses looking to expand their reach and want to get to know the direct members of other large businesses. Most events are held for them to pitch merge ideas, new product launching, or even openings these companies may want to replace.
Global Networking is similar to National in every way. The main focus is to strengthen bonds, make new connections to large businesses from across the waters, and/or introduce new employees, or products available for them to consider to try.
Online Networking is the free and clear way to make quick connections from any walk of life available online at that time. You can be in the same event as a large company or international one. It's a great way to met with people in specialty groups that you may not be invited to met in person other wise. These meetings can go from free to paid, group specific to general, and video chat live to chat room style. As stated it is a way to met with people quick and get what you need right away, but can be impersonal and if you don't met with the same group often, you could be lost in the minds of those who won't remember you the next day.
Networking is very important these days and can lead to tons of referrals and new business relationships if you have the finesse to wow people the first time you met them. Be prepared to give a 30 second speech about what you do. Also bring enough business cards with updated information on how to contact you. Bring your own professional business ID badge, it shows you take your meeting serious. Last but not least, remember to be polite and listen to what other people do and even if you can not help with a request they may be looking for, if you know someone who can, refer them to your connection. This will always work in your favor because this person will always remember what you did and may refer people to you because you've built that foundation of trust.
Know of any networking trends or tips for networking skills, add it in the comments below.