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  • Written by Rhiannon Mason
  • Last modified on 03 May 2021

Networking Tips for Small Business Owners in Victoria

By it's most basic definition, networking for business is about intentionally staying connected with other professionals to grow your business. It is about creating relationships rather than handing out or collecting business cards. Good networking is a low cost way of marketing your business. But it means taking part in real conversations and meeting up with likeminded people to create new opportunities. For some, this comes naturally and is an almost innate skill or habit they practice daily. For others, especially those who may be new to networking or those who have a more introverted personality, networking can be a new and somewhat daunting concept.

So how do you go about networking your business?

A lot of people tend to ask, "What's the best way to network?"

The fact is, there's really no single definitive answer to this question.

Firstly, it depends on what you want to get out of it and the goals you have in mind for your business. Secondly, it depends on your personal preferences and style. What might be the best way of working for Arthur, may not apply to Martha, and that's okay.

A good starting point for many people looking to network, particularly those who are a little adverse to diving into the deep end, is to consider the environment that makes you most comfortable.

What brings out the best in you and makes the most out of your natural strengths? Where do you feel most at ease meeting new people?

You may be comfortable taking part in shared activities that allow you to bond over a common interest, like networking dinners or industry-specific meet ups. Just check the details of your event because some groups have rules around attendance, strict roles for participants and guests and some have themes or certain 'rituals' of sorts, but don't be put off, these are generally designed to help facilitate the networking process.

For the hungry socialites, breakfast brunches are a great way to network for a relaxed vibe and coffee fuelled conversation (even if you. We've had some amazing brunch meet ups at VSBN, get in touch to find out when the next one in your area will be.

If attending an event in person sounds like your version of hell, or you just want to dip your toe in to begin with, then you might prefer to network entirely online, using social media and video conferencing software to virtually meet people all over the world. If you haven't already, join us on FacebookLinkedIn or better yet, come to one of our virtual Grow Your Network events. We always have a great turn out, awesome attendees and it's free to come along! The best part is, you don't even have to leave your house!

   Woman on bed in dressing gown with hair wrapped in towel using her laptop

Set realistic expectations

It is important to set realistic expectations about what you want to achieve when networking. Align your expectations with your business goals to help identify genuine opportunities.

Beware of expecting an immediate return on the investment you make in networking. This is just not how it works. Building a network isn't about pushing your products onto people or making a quick buck. It takes time to build relationships and it takes time to realise the benefits from them. So, like any relationship, it's two sided. 

If you are only networking for what you can get out of the relationship, people will pick up on that and you will come across as fake rather than as a passionate, authentic business person. Think of it this way, you're not trying to make a sale, you're trying to make an acquantaince.

Like any relationship, professional, dating or otherwise, it's about communication, common goals, shared knowledge and ongoing effort. Remember, you get what you give!

Networking in Victoria: First Steps

There are many networking websites and events across Victoria. You can connect with other business owners and entrepreneurs through the Victorian Small Business Network or by doing a quick Google search for networking groups and events near you. You can always join broader online networking groups or attend niche events relevant to your business, but when starting out, it can be best to stay close to home so you find and connect with businesses relevant to yours. Here's a list of things you can do to build a solid foundation for networking with small businesses in Victoria.

  • List your business in the VSBN directory.
  • Join the VSBN Facebook group to find out the latest networking events by us and from other organisations.
  • Create an account and connect with us on LinkedIn so you can be notified of events and meet other business owners online.
  • Use social media to stay connected to your network and build new contacts using platforms like LinkedInFacebook and Instagram.
  • Sign up to industry websites relevant to your business.

3 women networking, smiling with coffees, one has a pen in her hand.

Networking tips and tricks

Follow these networking tips and tricks to make a positive, professional impression:

  • Instead of talking about yourself, stop and listen to what the other person has to say. This is an opportunity to make genuine connections, not time for a rehearsed monologue.
  • Asking questions can create more authentic relationships, you don't always have to know everything and you might learn a thing or two while you're at it.
  • It's okay to have a bit of an 'elevator pitch' up your sleeve, so you can explain your business in a concise manner, but rather than reeling off a rehearsed speech about your business, be open, honest and passionate about your vision. 
  • Talk to people different to you rather than only being drawn to those who are similar or seem to have immediate benefit. It will give you new insights and knowledge, and alternative points of view. You never know who might come in handy, and it's often who you least expect.
  • Follow up with new contacts so they remember who you are and you keep the momentum going. Include a link to information you discussed during the conversation with them or introduce them to another person you think could help them out with something.
  • Before attending a new networking event, do some research. This will give you some context into the businesses involved and give you a conversation starting point. If you're unsure, just sit back and observe for a while, see what sort of businesses are present and how they interact and then follow suit.

And perhaps most importantly:

Be yourself and have fun with it!

Networking isn't a sport and it's certainly not something that should bring you too much stress or worry, so make sure you have fun with it. It's normal to feel nervous or anxious when entering social situations, particularly with strangers but keep in mind they're there for the same reasons you are. The reality is, even the most experienced networker started at exactly where you are now, so just smile, be yourself and get ready to network. There's something to be said for the feeling of connectivity and camaraderie that can come from networking, especially when you've been running a small business in Victoria. To many, this support is worth more than the business opportunities, education and knowledge, and lead generation combined.

Group of people networking and laughing, man sits in a chair

Start networking with other small businesses in Victoria

Join the Victorian Small Business Network today and get connected.