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WNC Business

Networking strategies for business connections

Jan 09, 2024 05:09PM ● By Randee Brown

According to Laura Wagenknecht of Mosaic Business Consulting, women and minorities need to approach their business growth strategy a bit differently.

Since women in general tend to earn less on the dollar, they typically have a higher debt-to-income ratio, which often results in lower credit scores. Because of this, they receive fewer loans or receive loans for lower dollar amounts and pay higher interest rates — a combination that creates a greater challenge for female entrepreneurs. These aspects are even more pronounced for minorities.

Networking events often create connections and opportunities for growing businesses, but women and minorities should approach these events with a slightly different strategy, according to Wagenknecht. Often, there is natural separation at these events, as people tend to surround themselves with others who are like them, creating a divide between men and women. 

“We communicate differently,” Wagenknecht said. “Not only is the topic of conversation often different, men are often much more direct when speaking about their business and what they are looking for in a working relationship. Women don’t need to jump into the ‘man’s world;’ they need to find their own voice and use it to present their business ideas and needs to the public.”

Many women struggle to use their voice, and when they are building a brand, it’s important to have their voice be heard, according to Wagenknecht. It’s a marketing struggle to find the voice of the brand and effectively share it with the business community. The brand’s voice is how they will be communicating with clients and customers, so it’s important to put it out there effectively.

A brand’s voice will depend on the messaging and types of information that needs to be conveyed to the target audience. Voices of women-owned brands should clearly convey the brand’s intention in a clear, consistent manner. Networking is one way to convey that, but it’s important to evaluate how well it is working and be flexible with the strategies that are in place.

“Women like to make friends, but that may not correlate to building their business,” Wagenknecht said. “If it’s not working, the strategy needs to change, and energy needs to be focused on something that is a better use of their time. Prioritizing what is working and properly managing that time spent is critical.”

Narrowing down a business’s niche will help identify the right target market, according to Wagenknecht. Looking at what marketing channels are chosen and what kind of budget is spent to increase reach and engagement to hit new goals can be helpful in a business’s accomplishments, but there are different strategies for each of those. Getting clear on who the target audience is, what their needs are, ways to fill those needs, and how well each marketing channel is performing can help determine which strategy works best and where energy should continue to be placed.

For minorities, the same strategy considerations apply, according to Wagenknecht. Access to education, resources, funding, and, for those living in rural areas, the internet are all struggles that play a role in deciding business strategies. While a prevalent assumption is that we can meet our people in networking events geared toward everyone, networking in specialized groups for women or minorities may be helpful, as like-minded people who have overcome obstacles similar to one’s own can be powerful and inspiring.

Those in rural areas also network differently than those in urban areas. A networking event in an urban setting may be host to 300 or more people, so in rural areas, Wagenknecht said building genuine relationships with others can be hugely beneficial.

“It doesn’t matter if you are networking with someone in a ‘competing’ brand,” Wagenknecht said. “There are often referrals amongst similar businesses, so thinking about how you build relationships so that all sides are winners and support one another can lift everyone’s business and find joy in everyone’s success.”

When determining business-building strategies, all business owners should assess where their business is now and where they’d like it to be, then work backwards from there, according to Wagenknecht. Discern how much revenue is needed and how many clients it will take to reach that number, then find the leads and convert them into clients. Networking and building relationships, with the right strategies in mind, can help businesses reach their goals.

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