External networking serves many purposes for a company, and modern digital marketing has become a combination of marketing, customer service, and public relations. Social media and other platforms also allow industry experts and organizations to engage in public conversation about important topics, so being involved and engaged in business and local communities is vital to a company’s success in order to appeal to modern socially conscious audiences.

Collaboration between companies is an also an important aspect of running a successful business, as many industries have come to rely on outsourced services to remain efficient and competitive, especially in the digital economy. Here let’s go over a few ways to develop a professional network, and dig into why it’s so vital.

External Relationships Matter

Any business owner looking to establish themselves as an expert, or better yet a thought leader, in their field needs to cultivate and maintain strong connections within the local business community. This includes other companies whose services you make use of, as well as other experts in your own industry, Holding public conversations and cultivating strong relationships with businesses that align with your stated goals is an important element of social proof. When people see you engaging with other businesses and other experts, it increases your own authority and legitimacy in their eyes. A history of this interaction generates an image of your company useful for both marketing and PR.

One of the best ways to meet other owners and cultivate professional relationships between businesses is to attend events: chamber of commerce events, town halls, trade shows, anywhere the business community meets. Seeking out relationships within the business community requires excellent communication and leadership skills, as well as a proactive mindset. These are vital for a business owner or anyone else representing the business at functions, so the teams that attend need to be picked carefully to put the best foot forward.

Volunteering Is Powerful

One of the most common pieces of advice given to young people looking for experience to add to their resume, as well as to older professionals who are changing careers, is to leverage volunteer work professionally. Volunteering has a number of benefits to a job seeker, but many more to a business! Getting involved with nonprofit entities generates goodwill from not just those organizations, but from the local community and from potential customers who care about similar issues.

While corporate social responsibility initiatives are nothing new, several large businesses have experimented with aligning their brands with certain causes.. Some companies choose to donate money directly, while others set up grant programs which nonprofits can apply to, and it’s becoming more common for companies to create “volunteer days” either during work or off hours.

Actively donating time and pairs of hands is becoming such a popular strategy partly due to the dominance of social media and other digital marketing channels. Employee and business social media accounts can post photos of the work as it happens. It’s an opportunity to truly connect with audiences who appreciate the work of nonprofits, as a genuine commitment to charitable work is often seen as a breath of fresh air.

Just make sure it’s not all about company visibility; volunteer and donate because you believe in the work that a nonprofit is doing. Yes, you get a benefit from it, but make sure people don’t mistake your intentions as cynical!

In the end, the goal is to create a strong and varied professional network. A network like this is about more than marketing. It’s a strong sign of the health of a business, and of business investment in the health of their local community as well as the industry at large. Finding ways to create robust networks should absolutely be a priority for businesses, even small ones, as part of regular operations. So get out there!

By Noah Rue

About the author

Noah Rue is a writer, a digital nomad, an ESL teacher, and an all around good dude, if he doesn’t say so himself.

Featured image via Unsplash.