Networking – how to make it work for your business

This post covers what I think is one of the most effective ways of generating leads for your business: Networking – the traditional face to face type.

As most networking groups wind down for the Christmas break, now is the perfect time to look at what your networking strategy is going to be for the New Year. And by strategy I simply mean how are you going to be using networking to promote your business?

Networking is Marketing

If you aren’t doing any networking as yet for your business, it is certainly something you should be thinking about. Networking is a very useful marketing strategy. To get the most out of your networking, however, you need to consider the following:

1. Networking is a long-term strategy. You may think that if after your first networking meeting you don’t walk away with a new client then it has been a waste of time. Wrong! Although it is certainly possible to walk away from your very first meeting with a new client (or a potential one), it is not how you should be viewing your networking strategy. Networking is about meeting new people, developing relationships with them and establishing your credibility with those people.

2. Networking is NOT selling. I like to think of networking as a press release rather than an advert. You do not walk into a networking event and shout, “Hey I’m from Just Too Busy, I do marketing, come and buy from me or send me people who will!” That’s networking as advertising and there are some groups who think this is how it works.

What you should be doing is talking and listening to people at the event, perhaps making some suggestions based around your area of expertise, offering advice, giving feedback – basically being helpful and demonstrating that you know what you are talking about and are not at all interested in the sell, but in building relationships with your fellow networkers.

3. Networking is about brand. Taking into account points 1 and 2 above, your networking is about your brand. Your brand is the essence of your business and should be what you aim to promote at every single networking event. Promoting your brand means ensuring that you have a clear “elevator pitch” – one that tells people what you do without the sell attached. It also means that you have a very clear understanding of your business brand including your service/product offering and your target market.

4. Networking is about getting business. At the end of the day, networking should be about getting new business for your business. This must be the point of any marketing in the end. But it is how you approach that getting of new business that defines the type of marketing strategy you use. Networking is essentially about building relationships, establishing your credibility and promoting your business with a long-term view. Any networking that promotes quick wins or instant referrals isn’t promoting the type of networking that really works, the type that I like to call “authentic networking”.

Authentic Networking

So what is Authentic Networking? For me Authentic Networking is:

* Long-term investment of time (not just money)

* Developing new relationships (not just buyers)

* Being there to establish your credibility (not just status)

* Looking to gain freely given testimonials (not just pressured referrals)

* Helping your fellow networkers where you can (not just looking to sell, sell, sell).

So, whether you are already networking or whether you have yet to start, I hope these points will help you approach it in a way that in the long-term, both for getting you new business and for your reputation, will, I think, do you and your business the most good.

If you have any questions about your networking strategy then feel free to get in touch