Networking describes establishing and maintaining relationships by building contacts for mutually beneficial, professional goals. It can happen sporadically, through chance encounters or organised meetings with concrete planning. Everyone within a network should benefit from the shared connections. Individuals can benefit from mutual referrals of orders, recommendations, joint projects or even acquisition actions.Networking is an extensive network of people. Networks can lead to an improvement in the professional situation. Access contacts from a wide range of professional groups and positions to help achieve your business goals.

Why is networking so important?

An array of entrepreneurs and freelancers, in particular, constitute a large portion of their order volume to networks. Therefore, networking is an indispensable part of customer acquisition. Networking also regularly increases career opportunities for employees. Communicating between stakeholders in a problem-oriented and project-related way is less complicated within networks. Particularly in long term business relationships, where a basis of trust has built over time. These relationships trump anonymous references and faceless testimonials. Conversely, networking offers new players the opportunity to raise their profile, at least regionally, without a large advertising budget or the need to recruit initial clients/business partners.

How does networking work?

A person, an interest group or a company is the starting point of networking. Then comes the publicity measures (brochures, social media, newspaper advertisements, etc..) The interested parties gather together usually at a recurring time to exchange interests, often accompanied by a meal or other joint activities. Ideally, referrals create a momentum of their own, after which new networkers join. More and more business relationships crystallise. However, networking can also be established completely spontaneously at appropriate occasions where people with similar interests come together and communicate.

What should you look out for when networking?

Spontaneous networking

By its very nature, spontaneous networking does not allow for any preparation. Here, it's essentially communicating one's self, activity and motivation for networking credibly and authentically. Ideally, brief information like business cards and brochures are at hand in such a situation.

Targeted networking

Targeted networking promises to be all the more successful, the more prepared you are. The first rule is to present your business portfolio in a very concise and memorable way. At many networking events, the speaker only has 45 to 60 seconds to leave a lasting impression. At the same time, one should - if possible - have basic knowledge about the people attending and their activities. Proactive communication with the other participants increases the chance of successful networking. Carrying sufficient business cards is obligatory.

What networking opportunities are there?

Business associations and interest groups organise regular networking events in almost every city. In addition, congresses, trade fairs and certain clubs e.g. marketing clubs, offer the opportunity to spontaneously network. Digital forms, via social media, are also becoming increasingly important. However, there is also room for networking in leisure activities. Professional contacts are made, for example, during joint sports activities or on trips and in clubs.

What is the best way to maintain existing contacts?

As a general rule, a small but regularly active network is often more effective than an excessive number of contacts which requires more time and capacity. Depending on your approach, contacts can be purely professional, but also extend into your private life. Both should be coordinated in such a way that both parties feel comfortable. Regular engagement in the group usually increases the access to the other members and leads to a professional, but at the same time, friendly and approachable interaction.

What common mistakes occur in networking and how can they be avoided?

Even in times of digitalisation, handing out business cards remains a sign of recognition and interest. Under no circumstances should the recipient treat them in a visibly disrespectful manner. Successful networking thrives on mutual communication: it is therefore considered impolite to interfere in ongoing conversations or to constantly talk only about oneself. Conversations should also never be dragged out too much, so as not to overstretch the other person's time. Statements about one's activity that are too obscure - such as the famous example "I do something with people" - are inappropriate. It is essential to dress appropriately and to address your counterpart by name.