What if I told you that one of the most understated power principles could be the gasoline that you need to get your company to the next level? That principle, of course, is networking. eCommerce is growing and expanding at a rapid rate. Some companies grow like wildfire while others sit stagnant. If your business is stuck in the latter, let me offer some ideas from my years of working with successful eCommerce companies.
WHAT IS NETWORKING?
According to Merriam Webster Networking is “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions. Specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”
Networking is bringing to life the saying, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” Two separate parties have something the other needs in order to further their business and they help each other. These relationships are beneficial for both parties.
Networking is a two way street. If one party constantly takes while the other constantly gives, this relationship is destined to fail. Networking has to serve both sides of the relationship. It’s important that as you establish strong networks, you seek ways to be a benefit to your business or personal acquaintances. Remember, the more you give in life, the more you will receive.
Speaking personally, networking has allowed me to find success in both my private and professional life. For example; I spent the last five years working for a company called Traco Packaging. While there I gained extensive knowledge regarding packaging and 3pl shipping. Along with the knowledge I gained, I was able to build a large network of fulfillment centers, manufacturers, eCommerce sales companies etc. One of these manufacturers (who were my customer at the time) was a company called Dynamic Blending. When I decided to leave Traco I approached the owners of Dynamic Blending and asked them to partner with me on a new 3pl/Fulfillment warehousing venture. That partnership has proven extremely valuable.
These partners have been instrumental in allowing Launch Fulfillment to become the company that it is today. Though we are still relatively young, we have not been denied any of the necessities required for fast growth and expansion. Dynamic blending was not only able to offer start up cash, warehousing space, forklifts, pallet racks, etc. They have also been a phenomenal source of knowledge and mentor-ship. This access to insight is something that every small business owner should have in order to improve their odds of success. That my friends, is the value of networking.
WHO DOES NETWORKING?
The simplest answer I can find for who networks is EVERY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS. Google any winning company (i.e. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon etc.) and with some digging, you can discover exactly who some of those partners are. Some networking relationships fly under the radar and are done through private or personal means. Other networking relationships are public and openly benefit both parties (such as Amazon allowing returns through Kohls).
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO START NETWORKING?
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
The best time to start networking is yesterday. You can never have a big enough network. There are always more people you can help and more people who are willing to help you.
The more networking you can do in your business with other businesses, the better. Listed below are some of the reasons it is beneficial for you to network with your e-commerce business.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF ECOMMERCE NETWORKING?
SOLVING PROBLEMS– There are many “problems” that you are going to encounter along your eCommerce journey. The best thing you can do is have someone who has been there, and done that, who can help you solve those problems.
You may also have some valuable knowledge as to how someone else can solve a problem. Having other people to lean upon for advice when faced with a difficult problem is crucial to the growth of your business.
BUILDING CONNECTIONS– It’s not so much what you know, but rather WHO you know. After you have done some networking you will begin to notice that the people you network with will introduce you to even more people/businesses. These people/businesses can help you grow and expand your business and you can do the same for them.
EXPAND YOUR CUSTOMER POOL- One of the biggest upsides to networking is the ability to use these connections to expand your customer pool. When you help a business solve a problem by networking with them, you get to tap into their customer base. If they believe there is any way you can serve their customers, they will send them your way. This drives more traffic to your website and helps your business sell more products. Often, you will be able to sell directly to these networks. You’ll find that as you shift from one position or job to another, different connections will become more valuable at different points of time.
Let’s be honest, you don’t know everything there is about eCommerce or business (don’t worry, neither do I). The people you network with don’t know everything either. However, when knowledge is gathered together from multiple points of view, amazing things happen. Utilize this pool of knowledge to the fullest. People love to share what they know, don’t you?
HOW TO NETWORK IN ANY E-COMMERCE BUSINESS
The easiest way to start networking is to find out where your current weak points are in your supply chain and eCommerce fulfillment. Are you purchasing your inventory from the right sources? What can you do to tap deeper into your target market? Can you handle the shipping logistics yourself? Do you need freight shipping? Can you offer expedited shipping? How can you grow your customer base? etc. Your problems will help you know what relationships to build, thus guiding your network needs. Often you might ask, “how do I find these relationships?” Just like everything good it life, it requires a little work. However, no matter what your background may be, you are just as capable to building a successful network as anyone else.
To get you started, here are some ideas that can help you grow your network:
- Get a job – Jobs open new doors to the professional world. Never underestimate the value of anyone you meet while working your 9:00-5:00.
- Evaluate family and friends – Use the resources of those who are close to you. Until I became an adult i never really appreciated the lessons my parents, brothers and sisters or aunts and uncle could teach me. These pre-established relationships are a great starting point.
- Attend networking events.
- Use social media such as Linked-in, Facebook and Instagram. These can be especially valuable in building your eCommerce brand.
- Use the internet – We live in an age of technology where we have access to infinite amounts of knowledge with click of a button. A simple google search may open a world of opportunities for your business.
Let me share a quick example of networking the networking needs in eCommerce company might face. Let’s say I have an eCommerce business in Utah selling outdoor equipment such as tents, tarps, hiking backpacks, hammocks, etc. From start to finish I am going to need multiple network connections. For instance; a manufacturer for all of the goods, a web developer, marketing specialist, bookkeeper and eCommerce fulfillment center.
Finding reliable businesses such as effective contract manufacturers and fulfillment warehouses for my products will help my business grow while at the same time growing their business.
But wait… Doesn’t the relationship have to be mutually beneficial? How does the shipping warehouse benefit in this example? They benefit because I am now a customer. They help me ship my product and I exchange money for their service. If they do a good job fulfilling my orders and getting them shipped, I am likely to tell others in my network about their service, thus providing them with more customers.
Networking will help your business thrive. The more networking you can do upfront, the better. Networking is as easy as finding a problem and researching out to whoever you think can help you solve that problem. The best way to approach creating a network connection is to solve someone else’s problem first. In a network relationship, you can’t just take you must provide value as well. Networking nets you more $$. Think of your network like a fisherman’s net. The bigger the net he can throw out, the more fish he can catch at once. This same concept applies to your business. Do your business a favor and GROW YOUR NETWORK TODAY!