6 Great Reasons Why Business Networking Still Works.
I still love networking though social media has made online networking so easy. Especially platforms like LinkedIn but also Facebook groups and Twitter makes connecting with others in business relatively simple. But how valuable are these connections and followers compared to genuine face to face business friends or associates?
Here are the reasons why I feel business networking still works.
Networking is a fantastic way to market your business, but there are other reasons to attend networking events. The return on investment (of time and money) can be high if done properly. So why should you network? The answer is different for many depending on their motivation. But a common answer is “to win more business”. However, there are more reasons you should attend networking events.
Build a network of referrers and friends
I love the phrase, “You need to speak my friend, they’ll be able to help you” (especially when I’m the friend). This is essentially building your referrers network. Be warned it can take time to build long-term relationships and friendships with those who will refer you, but it’s worth it. The aim here is to attend the same group, assuming you actually enjoy it, to build relationships. Although this is a long-term strategy to build referrals, the genuine friendships gained are often immeasurable. I have had so many referrals for business from networking it is actually the most successful marketing action I have employed. I have passed leads for business many times and this is often reciprocated.
Quick Tip: Relax and be yourself, enjoy learning about others first by asking questions about them.
This is especially beneficial if you have a small team or even if you are the team. Meeting specialists and professionals like Accountants, Solicitors, Marketing Experts, Employment specialists or IT consultants is a great way to get free advice which would normally cost you. At some membership networking meetings, a member can present to the group and prove their expert status by sharing their own insights. This content is often very valuable and some have charged their clients for this information. Better still, deliver a presentation or insight yourself, you’ll be seen as the go-to expert. This will increase confidence, kudos and is an excellent marketing strategy.
Quick Tip: Take a notepad, ask questions and learn from experts for free.
Getting out of the office increases positive energy.
Getting out of the office (or converted bedroom/garage if you are working from home) and a change of scenery keeps you active and is challenging. Being self-employed or part of a small team limits our interaction with others and can lead to depression especially if business is not going so well. Attending regular meetings can you give you a purpose to leave the office and meet more people. As humans, we are social creatures and most of us (especially me) shouldn’t be left alone for long periods of time, been there done that and hated it. Being part of a network can be like having your own team to support you.
Quick Tip: Arrange to meet someone at an event to reduce the anxiety.
Build leads and make appointments.
This can be the start of the sales process. Be warned though, networking is not the place to sell. Would you like a complete stranger to try to get you to sign up to something? It’s like walking into a restaurant and handing leaflets out. Whilst chatting with a co-networker you identify that you have a service that will benefit them (that’s why you should show an interest in the other person first) it would be wrong of you not to arrange a follow-up meeting.
Quick Tip: Take your Diary or have your smartphone ready! Try this phrase “I’d like to learn more about your business and maybe I can share mine, are you free Friday lunchtime to see how we could help each other?”
Build interpersonal skills.
Meeting new people, asking questions about others and thier business is a great way to develop your own interpersonal skills. You will become more confident at meetings, presentations and in general when out and about when socialising.
Quick Tip: A great book to read is How To Have A Beautiful Mind by Edward Debono, this is a fantastic read about how to be attractive to talk to in many environments.
Practice your “pitch”.
At networking meetings you will be asked about your business several times, how you answer this is obviously important. This can be in a one-to-one conversation or even when delivering your 40/60 seconds “Elevator Pitch” to the room. However, because you talking about and answering questions about you and your business, you will naturally become more skilled at explaining What it is you do, Who your customers are, How it works and more importantly “Why” you do it. You will naturally improve your proposition and possibly refine the offering of your business and it’s marketing.
Quick Tip: Have an answer to all these questions and practice, practice, practice!
It is easy to stay in your comfort zone and use social media, I love using social media too. However, offline business networking still has a very important part to play in a marketing strategy. I have benefited in many ways from networking and this has become an activity I embrace. What’s not to like? Meet people, drink coffee, learn lots, drink more coffee and market your business.
What are experiences of networking? Do you have any other tips?