Networking for Startups Complete Guide
It’s no secret that networking in business is extremely valuable. It allows you to build relationships and connections with important and valuable contacts that can be extremely good to have for a number of different reasons.
With these contacts, new doors are often opened that can lead to important collaborations, new customers and strengthen the company’s brand. Networking is therefore really smart. both for established companies, but maybe most importantly, for startups.
As an entrepreneur, it is almost impossible to succeed without a strong network. You need tips and advice to solve the challenges and problems that emerge and often help to speed up the shops. But many startups have never networked within the corporate world before and it can therefore feel both scary and difficult at first. The solution is good preparation and a thoughtful strategy.
To help you, we will, therefore, in this article, share an extensive and in-depth and guide to networking for startups.
The networking process for startups
Getting a strong network can take time but oftentimes, there are already important contacts closer than what you think. Just think of all your relatives, friends including their parents, old teachers or trainers, neighbors, and contacts on different social media. Most people either know or at the very least are familiar with a lot of exciting and competent people.
Now, the catch is that it is only going to be to your advantage if these valuable contacts if we start to network with them in the “right way”. The key is to follow the three simple steps of the network process; Inventory, implement and follow up.
Start by inventorying your existing network and make a simple network map. Write down everyone you “know”, their skills or other factors that are valuable to your startup company. You may be familiar with someone who works with finances that can help you with your budget? Or maybe someone who has real estate that you could borrow at your production? Alternatively, you may have a contact that has industry knowledge that could become your advisor?
The next step is to compile all members’ network maps within your startup company and think about what you might be missing.
If you have a gap, ask your existing contacts if they know someone who has these competencies. Many times someone does and can then connect you.
Another smart way is to search for new contacts via LinkedIn. On this platform, you can use a special search function. Another option to broaden the network is by participating in any of all network meetings organized in your city.
With the help of inventorying and these “refilling methods”, you will soon have a large and complete network map. This means you have defined important contacts and individuals that may be able to help you with whatever the problem or challenge is.
A business network that is for the benefit of the company does not arise by itself. It is important to plan your business network and build it with personal contacts. For the startup, it is also important to be included in already established networks such as trade associations. To actively participate in a business network is a competitive advantage.
Networking groups vary a lot depending on their type and function.
For example, in one type of networking group, you may have a seminar where you meet 20 people, each with several years of experience in the same professional area. You sit and listen to a lecturer. During the coffee break, you talk a little, exchange business cards, and tell each other to call if you need help with something. Are you then in a network? Obviously not!
Unfortunately, many believe that just because you have the name and address of colleagues, you are included in a network. Your collected experience is huge – it would be even if you had different backgrounds and worked in different industries. To take advantage of this knowledge, active action is required.
In addition to the personal network, there are business networks that are formed or can be formed around: Other companies or business constellations. Trade associations. Companies within the same industry that interact on issues that are important for the industry’s development. Interest organizations. Organizations developed around an interest or community.
Examples of this are employers, workers, and small business organizations.
Usually, advisors enter into the company’s board or act as mentors to the company or to a personal individual in the company. Consultants used by the company tend to only be temporarily included in the network, for example, an accountant. Knowledge is power and knowledge is obtained through participation in different types of business networks.
To actively participate in a business network is a competitive advantage. If you miss a suitable network where you or the company can be included, take the initiative and create one. With great probability, it is more people who think you. Network of the type of industry organization, interest organization, participates most companies quite passively in. What is used is usually the result of joint surveys, statistics, design of industry-specific contractors, research, and new findings in the field.
What is networking?
As an entrepreneur, it is important to have a strong network – a “database” of individuals and organizations to turn to to get tips and help solve different kinds of challenges and obstacles that you can encounter when running a startup. Even as a private person, it is good to have a strong network of people who can support one through good advice and feedback.
When you need something, for example, help with finding a new home or a place for the company you plan to start, you can use your network to get in touch with the right contacts and people to seek. As an entrepreneur, you can also get new customers and suppliers through their network – Positive Word of Mouth is the best advertising!
Tips for building a strong network for your startup
Networking means linking contacts that you can turn to in order to deal with different kinds of challenges in the future. A strong network is based on mutual trust – the individuals in your network must be able to trust you to want to go for you when you ask for help.
You must be able to rely on those you turn to solve such challenges and obstacles that you can meet in your everyday life – both private and working life.
How to amplify your network?
Have you already established a good network with people that you take help from for different aspects of your startup? Awesome! A great social circle and many contacts to be able to trust means that you are prepared to meet new challenges presented to you.
Just as in most relationships in our lives, a network must also be maintained and not taken for granted for it to last for a long time. To continuously try to strengthen your network is thus important, which can be done through the social media “LinkedIn.” LinkedIn is a great networking platform that any startup should take advantage of.
Below are three tips on how to reinforce the network you already have:
- Optimize your own profile.
- Develop networks through groups on LinkedIn.
- Recommend others.
1. Optimize your own profile
Every day, thousands of searches are made on LinkedIn where people with specific competencies are requested. If you want to be found through searches, it is therefore important to clearly convey your knowledge and what you are specifically good at to signal your qualifications to potential clients, customers, and other stakeholders of your business. Strive to stand out from the crowd!
Optimize your own as well as your company profile by summarizing what you offer in a simple sense to use as subheadings to your profile on LinkedIn. Who are you? What do you have to offer?
2. Develop networks through groups on LinkedIn
On LinkedIn as well as on Facebook there is the opportunity to create business pages. It is a good idea for you to invest your time on LinkedIn to establish contacts within different groups.
By going through group catalogs, you can find the groups that best suits you and your startup. After you have been approved as a member of the group you find interesting, you can start networking with the other members.
Build confidence by starting discussions and answering questions within the groups that desirable customers and individuals are to be found,
When you learn more about how groups on LinkedIn works, you can start your own group and thus open up the opportunity to reach all the group members and start discussions about topics that you consider important.
3. Recommend others
If you are particularly satisfied with a product or service you purchased, it may be a good idea to give the person who catered to you with this item a recommendation on LinkedIn. Positive recommendations increase confidence in a person, which increases the likelihood that he or she should be contacted.
In the true spirit of services and gate services, your recommendation of another person can lead to that he or she recommends you back. Thus, through a strong network, you can create positive Word of Mouth, which strengthens your and your startup’s achievements considerably.
Other companies and business constellations
The following effects can be achieved if you form networks with other companies:
- The exchange of knowledge and experience.
- Collaboration with other companies in eg. A region increases corporate survival skills.
- Resources can be shared, courses can be carried out together, etc.
- A network is easier earnings for its opinion than the individual company.
- Through networks develop imaginary/virtual companies.
The most common is that network is locally or regionally anchored. A network can e.g. consist of companies that operate in the same office building. Although companies work in completely different areas, there is always a lot of knowledge to learn from each other.
Companies focused on research and development in some areas can exchange experiences that benefit everyone. In order for this exchange of experience to work in the best and easiest way, it is not uncommon for companies with similar activities to establish themselves close to each other.
By sharing resources, the companies can get a very good survival and earning capacity. The knowledge from each other. It is a great dynamic in the network and through the collaboration, an individual company may be able to “take on assignments” that it would not really have done on its own if companies can collaborate.
The local or regional network can, through its common strength, affect decision-makers to act in such a way that benefits the network members. Examples of this may be that the municipality relates land to business establishments, organizing better communications, ensures that there are homes to employees, and so on.
The opportunities with what a business network can do are many. The network can organize a business fair, jointly advertise to attract customers from a greater area, and much more.
A lot of smaller startups have begun to formalize their network in a virtual (imaginary) organization to increase their strength and opportunity in the market. One is gathered around a common work area. Against potential customers, it is the formalized network that is face outwards, i.e. one looks like a “large company”.
The order is received by the “large company”. This virtual company then buys the product or service of the real companies affected and included in the network. From the time being a small player in the market, a startup has suddenly become a great player. This virtual company form is common in the service sector.
Industry and interest organizations
Companies in different interest groups have occurred for a long time. The most common in terms of interest groups are industry organizations, local and regional trade associations, corporate groups belonging to a limited geographical area, employer organizations, associations of small companies such as entrepreneurs’ national organizations, and so on.
An industry organization is an association of companies (and startups) that work in the same industry. The purpose is to safeguard the industry’s interests, debating issues both internally and against other groupings. The management means acts as a lobby and pressure group against, for example, politicians.
Other issues that are usually handled at the industry level are requirements for certification, designing common guidelines, spread knowledge about the industry to students, etc.
Another important part of the industry organization’s work is to support members with different services. Examples of such services are the provision of statistics, legal expertise, designing standard agreements, and education.
If the company is part of an industry organization and colleagues meet, there is usually information, ideas of various kinds come forward, proposals for collaboration are given, etc.
Interest organizations usually go “transversely” between different industries. Here it is usually other issues that are treated than in an industry organization.
Important issues dealt with in this type of interest organization are what concerns the company’s conditions, eg. Taxes, regulatory requirements, referral bodies for new laws, work environment, access to educated labor.
Employers’ organizations are to help their members close collective agreements, assist in wage-setting issues, collective insurance, various personnel issues, statistics, etc.
Make sure the startup surrounds itself with good advisors. Depending on the company’s focus and size, there are many different advisors who should be included in the network. Experienced and skilled people with a local anchorage. Make a list of what types of advisors that the company should surround itself with. In areas that you feel your company is missing things, active work should be reduced to link them to the company.
The advisors are meant to work as individuals you can consult and discuss things with. They are meant to inspire and generate ideas, contribute their knowledge and contacts. The people can be linked to the company in a formal manner, eg. an accountant, or informal.
For startups, it it may be good to connect to a mentor. A mentor is a person who is can discuss both ideas, problems, and so on. If it is possible, try to get an experienced business executive.
Never forget that a well-functioning network is a competitive advantage.
As for your “old” contacts, you probably have a good idea of important background information. But for “new”, it is wise to read and do your research about the person on different platforms such as websites, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. In this way, you will stay up to date around the person’s companies, favorite topics, and expertise areas.
Doing your research about the people will be valuable information once you should contact them. This information also allows you to ask better and smarter questions and can refer to common “friends” which increases confidence in you. Therefore, all research is clearly worth the trouble and an important success factor.
With all of this done, it is time to define what your goal is with the upcoming meeting. Is it advice or help around marketing, Finance, website, Group development, retailers, laws, or industry knowledge? Write down the target and some keywords from the background information in the form of a Mind Map.
Then the most important thing comes; What your startup should offer in return. The most important question to ask when it comes to networking is how you can bring value, not how you can take value.
It can also happen that some of your contacts are passionate to help startups succeed and therefore do not want something in return. Maybe they want some shares in your company as a thank you that they believed in you at the very beginning.
When it comes to your “old” contacts, you probably know exactly how to approach them. You should of course just be yourself so that everything feels completely natural. But when it comes to “new” contacts in your network, it is often good to think about the following points below:
- Memorize as much as you can about them and do your research
- Provide the background information about you and your startup so they get a good understanding of your startup
- Focus on how you can bring them value, not the other way around
- Ask questions, listen more than you talk, and smile
- Call or meet in person instead of emailing. The fact is that this is usually not particularly effective when the majority of emails end up directly in the trash or spam folder.
- Greet your new contacts politely with a firm handshake.
- Be on time
- Put aside the mobile or have it on silent.
- Follow the “dress code” so that you blend in.
- Don’t occupy their time too long
- Give positive feedback or a simple genuine compliment.
- Summarize what you agreed before leaving the meeting.
- “Imitate” the person’s body language and they will unconsciously have an easier time to like you (according to psychology)
- Use LinkedIn “Find nearby” and add your new contact.
- Book the next meeting.
- Follow up
As soon as you can (preferably after just minutes) after each meeting you should send an email or message where you thank them for the help or just write something short that it was nice to meet them and that you appreciate them for taking the time.
This belongs to networking and is perceived as both professional and nice. After a week, it is time to take the next step (if you did not decide on a certain date). Get in touch and follow up with what you might have agreed on during your meeting or continue your conversation where you left off.
To nurture your startup networking, it is important for the relationships to be long-lasting. Therefore, be sure that the contact is consistent and feels like a Win-Win for both.
For example, it may be by:
- Make a simple phone call to check in on them to hear how they are doing
- Offer them a coffee during a meeting
- Recommend your contact’s services or goods to others (as a way of saying thank you)
- Send a Christmas card or wish them Happy New Year.
- Give them a gift, for example, a birthday present.
Also, do not forget to always keep your network in mind so that you can also connect with different people and hear if they have a need for a service or product that other people in your network offer. This is a win-win and a means of showing your gratitude.
Do not contact someone without doing research about them first. Otherwise, you will meet them unprepared. The most important thing is that you know what network you are included in and how the atmosphere is in that network. If you have the names in advance, then it can be a good idea to do research about the people in this type of network. It can make you stand out and allows you to find a common denominator in the conversation.
Be a good listener
Many networking tips are based on how to present yourself or how to survey the person you should contact. Perhaps the most important tip is to listen. No one wants to share or create a startup with a person who just talks about himself or his own company. Also, avoid asking questions that you ask only to answer the same question when it is asked back to you.
Set clear goals
What do you want to get out of your networking? What is the purpose of visiting meetings and have contact with people in your network? Set up different goals in advance and evaluate after a certain time.
Contact different with different roles
For example, as a CEO of a startup, it is easy to contact others only in the same role. Or if you are a man, it is easy to just contact other men. Analyze your own behavior and contact people who are not necessarily like you, it is usually then that you get the most valuable exchange from each other as you have different perspectives, knowledge, and experience.
What is a network hub?
A business network or startup network is a term that refers to meeting other entrepreneurs, potential suppliers, or other professionals who have business experiences – to help you grow your business. The network gives you a pool of experts ranging from competitors to customers and allows you to offer something to them; Hopefully in exchange for their services, advice, knowledge, or contacts.
Developing relationships such as business owners and offering help to others do more than giving you, potential customers. The network helps you identify opportunities for partnerships, joint ventures, or new expansion areas for your business.
What are the benefits of a business network?
Sharing knowledge and ideas is one of the biggest benefits of networking. Whether you share your opinion, discuss a point of view, or get feedback, networking will help you expand your knowledge and let you see things from another perspective.
Improved opportunities with a network hub
The business network opens a completely new world of opportunities. From business partnerships to customer management, from joint ventures to asset or business sales, and many more. They help your business grow. For example, opportunities for creating networks can participate in local business events and business seminars.
Through business networks, you can improve your startup’s credibility and reputation. When you gradually meet more people, you will eventually get a reputation. When your reputation and your credibility grow you get better opportunities and support. You will be able to help others with valuable ideas and information. This will further increase your credibility.
It is important to remember that business networks are not just about getting exposure and promote your business. It is also about building contacts with other networks. This is an opportunity for mutual profit. If you have resources and information to help others, you should also do it. If they know someone in need matching your skills and your business, you will surely be recommended. This works in both directions and helps to strengthen the business relationships.
A Network gives you new information
A business network is also an opportunity to exchange knowledge of best practices, business tactics, and the latest trends on the market. A network of interconnected and well-informed contacts means broader access to valuable and new information.
Better support and advice
Through business networks for your startup, you can get valuable advice and support from experienced entrepreneurs. It is the best platform to discuss opportunities and challenges as it will open doors for valuable guidance and suggestions. You can make the foundation and relationship even stronger by giving advice and giving suggestions to your contacts.