Business networking has changed significantly over the past two years. What was once a predominantly in-person activity shifted to an entirely virtual exercise as the pandemic forced business owners around the world indoors.
And the networkers themselves even changed. With the rise of freelance work and small business ownership, an estimated 59 million Americans are now solopreneurs — and are constantly looking for networking opportunities.
So what will business networking look like in 2023 and beyond? We don’t have a crystal ball, but the five statistics shared below reveal two facts: Business networking is increasing steadily, and networking is still an effective way to generate significant business growth.
And 80% of jobs aren’t even listed on job sites! Whether personal or professional, networking plays an enormous role in finding and filling job opportunities.
For business owners, this means top talent won’t always find you on LinkedIn, Indeed, or other job sites. Networking within your industry — or working with a talented recruiter who does that networking for you — is quickly becoming the best way to fill your essential roles.
2. 70% of small business owners do their networking online
Even as events resume and in-person gatherings return to normal, virtual networking still reigns supreme. The majority of business owners connect online, on platforms like LinkedIn and other social media. The second most popular place to network is a party or social event (at 51%), followed by professional conferences (49%).
3. B2B businesses prefer one main online networking platform: LinkedIn
A full 96% of business-to-business companies use LinkedIn to network, connect with leads, promote their products, and find opportunities. They value the platform’s concentration of decision-makers and professionals, plus its focus on sharing resources and driving revenue growth for all users.
If LinkedIn isn’t currently a part of your networking strategy in 2023, you may be leaving opportunities on the table. Whether you’re looking for talent or aiming to increase sales (or both!) this platform, and others like it, offers a great opportunity to make valuable professional connections in a short period of time.
4. In-person networking is bouncing back — and then some
While online networking is practically all we’ve known for the past few years, in-person networking tends to be more effective. The connections forged at live events tend to generate better results. In fact, you’re 24% more likely to land a new customer through live, in-person networking, compared to virtual events.
Choose your live networking events carefully. Look for events that draw in the type of connections most valuable to your business, like Chamber of Commerce gatherings, local happy hours, or job fairs. If you’re more likely to land a customer or team member at one of these live events, it’s worth it to focus on events that attract your ideal audience!
5. Executives report generating as much as 28% of their leads through business networking alone
That means if they stopped networking altogether, they could lose over a quarter of their leads! This statistic underscores just how vital networking is to the ongoing success of many businesses — and freelance or solopreneur businesses in particular.
In 2023, as inflation continues to tighten customer wallets, expect networking for leads to become an even more essential activity. In-person and virtual networking establishes valuable personal connections that marketing fails to do. And as the shifting market makes every sale even more important for small businesses and startups, networking may become the most effective way to continue driving growth.
6. 41% of professionals wish they networked more often
And 38% of professionals find it hard to keep in touch with the connections they do make. Follow-ups are a crucial aspect of networking that many professionals ignore. What good is a new connection made at a networking event if you struggle to keep in touch?
To truly make networking work for you, have a simple follow-up plan in place to keep connections from falling through the cracks. You can add follow-up reminders to your calendar, send out a newsletter, or even make check-in phone calls. The best follow-up strategy is the one you can consistently commit to!
In 2023 and beyond, business networking is getting personal
You may think the best business networking happens at a professional event, like an industry expo, job fair, or business dinner. But in reality, any activity can become a networking event if you go in with a willingness to make genuine connections.
Leisure activities are a great place to start building your business network because they provide a relaxed and informal atmosphere for connecting with other professionals. The more casual setting makes it easier to build relationships, as people are more open to conversation in a comfortable shared setting. And making connections during leisure activities allows business leaders to show off their unique personality and establish themselves as a credible source of information— far away from the competitive atmosphere of an official networking or industry event.
Leisure activities, like golf clubs, gym classes, trivia nights, and community groups bring together like-minded people on target to reach similar goals, making them an excellent place to make valuable connections.
Want more? Since 2006, Escalon has helped thousands of startups get off the ground with our back-office solutions for accounting, taxes, HR, payroll, insurance, and recruiting — and we can help yours too. Talk to an expert today.