Article written by Rebecca Di Noia, Business Advisor, Western Sydney Business Centre.

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to be interviewed on a live radio show.

Although this was my 3rd time doing a radio interview – the first one was over the phone pre-recorded, 2nd one was during lockdown online from my home office; this time it was on a professional radio station live, so there is no margin for error.

Both during the journey of my business and business advisor career, I have had many PR opportunities and I have been asked by others how I landed these opportunities – did I use a PR agency? Did I use a media proposal? Or did I know the right person? And so on.

Yes, I do know the right people, but it came through networking.

Yes, networking. You heard that right.

The theme for NSW Small Business month this November is – Connect with Success, with a focus on helping small business owners to obtain knowledge and skills that will help grow their businesses, as well as connecting and collaborating with other business owners.

When I first started my business, I found the idea of networking bizarre. I mean, a bunch of people gathering together just to chat, and worst of all – I had to pay for it?

However, I kept hearing from others, in workshops and events, the benefits of networking and how it helped their business; so, I thought “if this is true, then I need to learn how to be good at it.”

At first, I made all the mistakes that everyone starting out makes and probably still makes – you know, just turning up, telling everyone and anyone you can find about your business only, handing them your business card one by one in the line as you leave the meeting. No communication and no follow-up.

It did not take me long to realise that this method was getting me nowhere and was not just a waste of my time, but my money also as well. Then one day, I decided to do the opposite – to stop talking about myself and my business but ask as many questions as possible about the other person and their business.

To my surprise, after about 10 minutes, those people would ask what I do, ask about my business, and invite me to talk about it further. From then on, close to 50% of people would ask for a 2nd follow-up meeting to discuss matters further.

At the 2nd meeting, if I could secure an order, great, but if not, I would ask them whether they knew anyone else I could connect with. Most of the time, I would have a referral to connect with someone else they knew, as well as potential orders.

Slowly, I was finding my circle of connections growing and new opportunities starting to come in. My first radio interview came via a 3rd party that I spoke to for 2 years and met at an event. My most recent interview came because I messaged the radio host directly, whom I have met at various workshops and events in the past and had many discussions about our family and business. 

People will do business with someone whom they trust and like.

Networking is not a silver bullet that will fix your marketing issues in an instant but once you have done it properly, you will reap its benefits immensely.