A recent survey of small business owners has shown that more than half consider networking to be a key component in the success of their business. Almost a fifth of these people consider that networking could contribute between 21% and 100% of annual sales turnover.
The survey conducted by the Small Enterprise research Team and sponsored by Lloyds TSB found that pro-networkers within the sample were not surprisingly prepared to devote more time to building relationships and also reported much greater rewards for their efforts than the networking sceptics.
Of the pro-networkers 83% said they had found new customers through networking compared with 55% of the sceptics. And similarly 48% of the pro-networkers said they had found new product ideas as a result of networking compared with just 25% of the sceptics.
Preferred modes of communication for the group as a whole were: face-to-face events first with 67% putting it top of the list; followed by telephone, (66%); and then written correspondence, (43%).
There was a clear gender divide when respondents were asked what type of face-to-face events worked best for them. Women tended to favour business lunches/meals (42% females compared with 24% males favoured such options) while men preferred golf or the pub (8% of women compared 24% of males favoured these options).
The survey also investigated choice of source of business support. The majority (88%) choose to go to professionals such as accountants or solicitors, with 39% opting for family and friends and 36% choosing bank managers or customers. Some even choose to seek advice from competitors (26%). One-third cited Business Link or Enterprise Agencies as a source of advice and 10% mentioned academics.
Amongst the larger organisations the bank manager would be the first port of call for business advice whereas amongst small businesses family and friends would be preferred.
Sources of new contacts and networking events tended to be mainly business associations (36%) , professional bodies (19%) and chambers of commerce (17%) though others were mentioned such as small business clubs, banks, employers organisations and research associations.
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Small Enterprise Research Team