Why do people network? (Social Entrepreneurs in particular)
I personally know a lot of people that would shy away from the opportunity to be in a room with a bunch of random strangers, with the sole purpose of putting yourself and your startup out there and meeting people.
And the thing is, it’s understandable why people shy away from such events. Networking can sometimes feel forced and awkward. After all, not everyone is a social butterfly.
It can feel forced and awkward because, more likely than not, you will be talking to people you’ve never interacted with before. You essentially don’t know much about the people you’re talking to, making it more difficult to get to them to support your startup.
And if that wasn’t scary enough, social entrepreneurs have it worse!
I venture to say that social entrepreneurs have things so much worse during networking sessions because they’re tasked with not only marketing themselves and their products/services, but are also tasked with marketing their advocacies.
They’re tasked with informing people about the relevant social issues that they want to tackle, all while trying to get the people they’re networking with to become advocates of their mission.
And so again I ask, why do people network?
A study conducted by Forbes identified that lack of capital/funding, industry barriers to entry, weak government support, fear of failure, etc are all barriers that could kill an entrepreneurs aspirations, and ultimately kill the startup that they have been growing.
This is where networking comes in. Being able to rely on people and organizations for support is priceless to any startup. In fact, another similar research by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that informal communities gathered through networking events were just as important as formal communities/structures such as accelerators or incubators.
Networking is an essential opportunity to capitalize on for any entrepreneur because it grants people access to guidance, mentoring, funding, information, etc. The greater the number of networking activities entrepreneurs engage in – lots of related literature find – the higher the chance of having a positive return in terms of profitability, revenue growth, innovation, capitalization and talent.
And for social entrepreneurs, networking provides all those added benefits for their startup, plus the opportunity to engage more players with their advocacy, and to inform more people about the very real social issues that they want to address.
Ok, but what’s the proper way to network? How do I best capitalize on networking opportunities?
Alright, now that I’ve talked about the importance of networking for startups, I believe this article wouldn’t be complete without some useful tips on how to best make use of networking opportunities.
And so, I’ve asked some of our social entrepreneurs to share their insights and experiences on networking.
I think the common mistake of most entrepreneurs is that when they do networking, they tend to focus more on themselves and on pitching their startups.
I understand that we all want to make a good impression and put our best foot forward – but this often backfires. I think that when we network, we should focus more on getting to know other people and building relationships with them. Based on my experience, being genuinely interested in the other person is a good way to connect and find common ground. The business part can go afterwards.
Just act natural and be yourself – no pretensions. Also, don’t be a business card pusher! Only give out your card to people who you actually make a memorable connection with, or to those who explicitly ask. Otherwise, giving your card will be useless since they won’t remember you anyway. And it’s always better to ask for the other person’s card or contact details so the ball’s in your court and you can be sure to follow up with them after! Networking won’t be as effective if you don’t followup after the event.
Having the right team is both important and crucial, but having both a wide and right network is also key to the survival of startups, especially those in their early stages of development.
Resources are limited for startups and if the goal is to make an impact while at the same time remaining profitable, the pool of network connections makes life a lot easier.
These people can possibly offer and provide your startup the resources and support it needs or if not, they can connect you easily to the people who can from their own network.
But not just that, a startup can also take advantage of networking to increase awareness through word-of-mouth, and that’s free marketing!
Open-minded ka ba?
We often confuse networking with pyramiding business scams in the country. Business networking, which is basically building your community in the field, has actually been super valuable to me and my business — without having to scam anyone!
All of my co-founders were people I met through different communities I was involved with. Sinaya Cup would not exist without these wonderful people I met through networking. Aside from all the technical knowledge you can gain from people in networking, the best value it has for me is that that it can be a support system when we experience challenges in our business.
Looking for opportunities to put your newfound networking knowledge to the test? We got you covered 😉
Makesense Philippines will be having a 2-day event on Sustainable Tourism this October 20-21, 2018. Do you think your startup could benefit from such a networking event? Sign up through the button below and find out!