Many bloggers invest a lot of time covering marketing strategies (I’m one of them), but comparatively few invest the same amount of effort into covering business networking. That’s a shame, especially given that networking is hands-down the fastest and cheapest way to grow your business. Networking is particularly fruitful for small businesses and startups, which have minimal marketing budgets to begin with. Here are five reasons why networking is the fastest and cheapest way to grow your business.

business networking

1. Word of mouth is the best advertising

No one will argue with the fact that word of mouth is the best advertising. When you spend time networking with others, you build relationships based on trust and credibility. And, naturally, we trust our friends and family members. Thus, when someone in your networking circle recommends you to a friend or family member, that shared trust is extended to you – and you stand a far greater chance of landing a new sale than any potential competitor.

2. Networking costs next to nothing

In fact, networking can be free. Are you a member of any clubs? Do you belong to a gym? Do you arrange play dates for your kids? These are all networking opportunities. You do not have to attend business networking events to network – you just have to keep the dialogue running wherever you go.

Sure, some networking groups charge money; in most cases, it’s well worth your investment. But outside of printing business cards and perhaps a few brochures, you don’t need to spend a dime to network.

3. You can be aggressive

Want to gain more business from your networking activities fast? Join more groups and get involved. When it comes to networking, you can be as aggressive as you’d like. This isn’t to say you should continually impress your business upon others; quite the opposite. What it means is you can be a more active member in many different groups, events and situations; thus earning more clout (and business) as you go.

4. You can multiply your networking efforts with “giver’s gain”

I’m a member of a networking group called BNI, which promotes the philosophy of “giver’s gain.” This means that the more referrals you give to other (or, the more you help others), the more you’ll ultimately receive in return. Spend time figuring out how you can help others, and they’ll be glad to refer new customers to you.  In this manner, the more you can help others, the more you can improve your networking results exponentially.

5. Networking is fun

To be sure, networking does take work. But it should also be fun. Don’t pressure yourself to land sales at networking events. Rather, take time to get to know the people in your circles. Engage in conversation. Listen and learn. Share a laugh (or a drink). The more fun you have networking, the better your results.