How to Network Your Way to Startup Success
Starting a business is a rewarding yet challenging endeavour that requires hard work, dedication and, in many cases, a lot of luck.
It's a grim reality that 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. By the end of the third year, 30% of companies typically fall through and there's a 70% failure rate by the 10-year mark.
Of course, there are ways you can enhance your chances of ongoing success for your startup. Networking is a critical component of getting your business off the ground. However, it's a skill that takes a bit of practise – particularly if you lack experience.
Regardless, fostering industry relationships may very well be the key to developing a long-lasting business. Whether you're a new entrepreneur or getting back in the game, here are five ways to network and engage your startup for success.
- Find Mentorship and Support
It can be challenging to navigate starting a business. That's why pursuing mentorship and industry support is critical. As a matter of fact, 92% of small business owners attribute their success to mentors.
Mentors offer suggestions and a blueprint for avoiding mistakes, as well as help you develop a sound direction for your business to go in. They can also provide essential insight and advice necessary for achieving your professional goals.
Seek potential mentors who have ample industry experience you can learn from. Because mentors have already triumphed in business and are typically leaders in their fields, they also tend to have plenty of connections for you to grow your network.
- Attend Events
Whether virtual or in person, attending events is crucial for startup entrepreneurs to communicate with like-minded professionals and industry leaders who can help propel your business to the next level. There are several benefits of attending events, including:
- Learning from entrepreneurs who were once in your position
- Creating a valuable list of contacts
- Building a customer base
- Finding new business partnership opportunities
Generating recognition and making your business stand out in the crowd is the primary mission. Of course, conferences and trade shows are also a great way to spark creativity, especially since the first few years of establishing your startup are the most critical and stressful. Stay inspired through networking events and workshops. You'll likely walk away with fresh ideas and a better understanding of how to skyrocket your business.
- Listen for Feedback
Perhaps the most important way to leverage networking for your startup is to practise listening. For every entrepreneur, a lesson in listening will help your business flourish.
Networking is all about sharing ideas, information, and experiences with your connections. For example, if you're struggling through an obstacle or having difficulty gaining traction with a product or service, feedback from others matters.
It's ssential never to take people’s experiences for granted. Your fellow entrepreneurs probably stood in your shoes at one time or another, and the input they can provide may help improve your startup strategy.
Be mindful that feedback may come in the form of insider information about your industry and competitors, as well.
Feedback should always be received and reciprocated in a polite, constructive manner. When engaging in these discussions, feel free to offer your thoughts on others' ventures, as well, to help them see their business in a fresh way.
- Be Active Online
Approximately 3.6 billion people actively used social media worldwide in 2020, making your startup's online presence crucial in your marketing strategy. However, social media offers the perfect networking platform for your business, as well.
LinkedIn is the best place for business-to-business (B2B) interactions, especially if you're interested in networking. Currently, LinkedIn hosts 810 million members from 200 countries around the world.
It's also where 96% of B2B marketers post organic content as part of their social media marketing strategy – topping Twitter and Facebook. Unlike other social media platforms, users expect to search for and read relevant industry content on LinkedIn.
Create a LinkedIn account for yourself and your startup company. Then, start posting content related to your business, connect with other companies and entrepreneurs, and make yourself known.
If appropriate, you might also develop an online presence elsewhere through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Part of creating a social media presence for your startup is exploring what works best as part of your content and communication strategy.
When it comes to your personal accounts, remember that you’re easily traceable for partners, clients, and customers. Always remain smart in what you share in the digital sphere and keep your accounts as professional as possible.
- Come Prepared
Attending an event such as a trade show or conference is an opportunity to make an excellent first impression with industry contemporaries and those of a higher status. You'll want to look the part of an entrepreneur, so be sure to be well-groomed and wear professional attire.
According to a poll commissioned by Dollar Shave Club, it takes 69% of people less than 27 seconds to form a first impression of someone else.
Show up to the event with business cards and remain positive and friendly. You could start by introducing yourself to another person who's there alone before moving on to groups of people.
To exude confidence and nail the first impression, you'll want to make eye contact while you're speaking, shake hands, remain polite, and listen closely. Events are usually a prime time to collect contact information from those you hope to follow up with, as well.
Make Fruitful Connections With Intention
Meaningful networking connections may be just what your startup company needs to get your name out there. When you build a contact list of mentors, partners, leaders, and potential customers, be sure to do so intentionally. Surround yourself with industry professionals you can reach out to at a moment's notice or in the future for guidance and support.