Business networking isn't a new concept: you meet up with other businesses locally or nationally and - with a bit of effort on your part - get some business passed your way. The amount of effort involved will depend on a lot of factors including your own business model, your personality and the business networking method you home in on. Here's a quick overview of some of the main methods you can use to network with other businesses.
In much the same way as Facebook allows you to keep in touch with your friends, there are some networks that will allow you to promote your business.
Indeed Facebook is one of those methods and you can design a Facebook page to help promote your business whatever sector you're in.
Another online business network is LinkedIn which allows you to cultivate and develop your contacts.
Like most methods of networking, you'll get out what you put in. If all you do is set up a profile page and then expect the world to find you, you're sadly mistaken. But if you put in the time and effort - without spamming your contacts - then you should be able to get a return on your investment.
There are events that are set up to allow speed networking, often as part of a show or exhibition.
These work much the same as speed dating. You'll meet tens of different people in a short space of time and if your memory is good - and if they made a good impression - you'll be able to remember some of them from the initial blur of your memory.
You'll probably instinctively know (or at least, think you know) whether this will work for you. It's certainly a quick way to get your face known and used as a support to another method such as regular posting on relevant business forums can be an excellent way for people to put a face to a name.
Business networking meetings
There are lots of different types of these. Many will meet in the morning and combine networking with a business breakfast.
Some networking groups will only allow one person from any given profession into any given group, others will allow more than one similar profession to attend.
My preference is for allowing competitors into the room, partly because my business background has always taught me to be wary of exclusivity.
If you're struggling with the idea of competition, think of a retail shop. Would it stock a certain brand of cola, even though the shop next door was also selling the exact same brand, or would it prefer to only stock an alternative brand? It's the same kind of thing with networking and there's no single "correct" answer.
The formality, or otherwise, of the meeting structure is also worth considering. You'll know your preferred style and whether or not you'd like to be under pressure to generate leads for the other businesses in your group (and, of course, get leads back in return).