Finding yourself stuck in a networking rut is easier than you think. Moving in similar circles with other like professionals is a popular networking tip – you have to find a squad to help expand your business or expand your client base. But eventually, you end up moving through those same circles so much that you feel like an old trail horse plodding along the Grand Canyon. Your once “new” networking venture is now your comfort zone. If that’s the case, then it’s time to find a fresh pond. Do the same rules apply for networking in uncharted territory? Even if you aren’t a business owner or entrepreneur, you can enhance your career and drive higher sales by breaking out of your niche and into other markets.
The Business of Networking
Networking for your business involves more than “schmoozing” new clients – you are also seeking out connections with other business owners and industry professionals. A recent survey of small business owners showed that networking made up for over 65% of the company’s marketing strategy and almost 80% of new businesses contributed success to business networking. Even if you are not a business owner, networking is still important in advancing your career. Engaging in conversations with other professionals, whether in your industry or not, is a way to build potential relationships and educate yourself. You may also find advancement – LinkedIn reported that almost 85% of jobs filled through its site happened through networking.
Nix Your Niche
You may already be aware of the necessity of networking to grow your business and/or career. Perhaps you consider yourself a networking pro within your industry. But now, it’s time to move beyond your boundaries and network beyond your niche market. But what is your niche? Essentially, it is your safe space, the area or network where you feel most comfortable. You may not even be aware that you have such a comfort zone, but everyone does. There isn’t anything wrong with having a professional niche market, but you do not want to be stuck either. If your business growth is beginning to level off (or already has), then you need to consider networking in new territory. It can be both scary and exciting to branch into unknown territory. You never know what kind of connections you will make that will move your business or career forward.
The How of Networking a New Niche
You may think that you already know how to network in a new industry, but rehearsing good marketing information can only refresh your mind. There is a popular old saying that “the enemy of my enemy if my friend” – for networking purposes, think of it as “the colleague of my colleague’s colleague could be my friend.” Cast a wider net and go beyond what you think might be helpful. Join online organizations for other industries and see who you can meet. Also, go back to school (your alma mater) and connect with old classmates. Sometimes the best connections are the “weak links” that don’t normally move in your circle. Another good networking tip is volunteering or lending support to a local cause. Not only will you be helping your community, but you may also make some worthwhile professional connections.
Even if you have already tried all of the popular networking tips, you may find that different strategies work better in different industries. Consider how your current networking efforts are going in your industry and experiment with new ideas. Positive growth in your business through networking is the end result. Going beyond your niche market is the best way to see those results.