Why small is beautiful when it comes to networking

Like many other aspects of life in lockdown, the networking world has changed considerably for small businesses. After the initial shock of realising that face to face meetings were strictly off-limits, many networkers and networking organisations laudably changed tack and took their events online, leading to a plethora of Zoom meetings and a daily dose of lots of tiny faces waving to us on LinkedIn.

For many, including me, these have been a fun and friendly alternative. Let’s face it, it takes real dedication to get out of bed at 5am on a cold, often dark morning to drive halfway across the county for an early networking event. At home, you can keep your PJ bottoms on, take your coffee just as you like it and save time and money into the bargain. What’s not to like?

A not inconsiderable number of businesses have also realised that online, the wider world of business has suddenly become a lot more accessible. The world is your oyster and Zoom events have seen businesses the length and breadth of the UK joining in to offer their wares and services. So far so good.

However, these sweeping changes for regular networkers have brought sharply into focus an old truism when it comes to the gaining of new business which, let’s be honest, tends to be the main priority for networking. And that truth is simply the value and necessity of a small community.  

In a rush of excitement to take our products and services to the world, it’s easy to forget that for centuries people have preferred to mainly do their business with local traders. Why? Well, as one networking organisation correctly spells it out…meet…like…know…trust, in that order. That’s why people love to shop local. They like, know and trust the butcher, the baker, the optician, the cobbler etc. So, why should it be any different if you’re a web designer, a financial advisor or a printer?

In truth, it’s no different. And, when it comes to networking, our main focus should always be on building a small community of people who you have a mutual liking and trusting of.

Why small? Because it’s impossible for most businesses to maintain a close and productive relationship with a large network. People try, which is why we typically establish hundreds of LinkedIn contacts, we compile large circulation lists, we build websites to hopefully suck in a global audience.

But, in reality, to build a network that works, you have to stay small. Aim to surround yourself with between 10 and 20 really close contacts. People you trust and who trust you. Businesses you rate, which means it often helps if they’re businesses you’ve used.

These are the business owners who will refer you, recommend you, share your posts, they’ll be on the lookout for ways to help you. Why? Because you’ll do the same for them.

But you can only do this by working on building a relationship over time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens through regular contact, not just at a networking event, regular communication, regular support, encouragement, using their products and services.

So, why not begin by compiling a list of your most trusted contacts? It can, and should include family and friends, then extend out to businesses. Decide then how many you can comfortably “service” to the extent needed to build your community.

Once you’ve drawn up your list, what do you do with it? Are any types of businesses better than others? This will be covered in the next blog but, in the meantime, remember, when it comes to networking, small is beautiful!

Image of Adrian Wales of LPD Associates

Adrian Wales is one half of LPD Associates. Highly experienced in leadership, innovation and change management, they raise the effectiveness of individuals, teams and leaders while also improving the quality and balance in their lives.
“I support, empower and inspire people to succeed.”
Adrian WalesLPD Associates

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