This is an effective and efficient low cost marketing technique for developing sales opportunities and contacts, based on introductions and referrals. It can be defined thus;
A mutually beneficial relationship established with other business owners and potential clients and/or customers. This is a valuable way to expand your knowledge, attain new clients, learn from the success and failure of others, and market your business. The primary purpose of business networking is to inform others about your product (either face-to-face at meetings and gatherings, or by other contact methods such as email, phone and increasingly social and business networking websites) and hoping to turning them into customers.
In addition, it brings with it the added advantage of personal introduction and recommendation, which are always very beneficial for developing business opportunities.
Business Networking Principles - Summary
Here is a set of nine proven and most important principles for effective business networking. Note that all sorts of professional people (scientists, lecturers, educators, councillors, etc.) can also be very helpful networking contacts. Thus when developing networking plans, think beyond the people you had typically see at other business networking events. Some of the most value connections are not business people, and thus you need to be creative in reaching them.
This is usually called an 'elevator speech' or 'elevator pitch' as if you were to meet a potentially important contact for the very first time in an elevator at a conference and he asks you: "What do you do?" You have less than 20 seconds between floors to explain, and to create such an impressive impact that the person motivated to asks for your contact details.
If you write (or talk) too much, the reader (or listener) will become bored, or think you are rude or too self-centred.
Be concise. Demonstrate consideration and expertise by conveying your most relevant points in as short a time as possible.
Be Ambitious and Different
The sale training and marketing sections contain lots of guidance about developing your offering so that it is totally different from what is already available in the market.
This difference must be something that many people will find appealing; ideally irresistible. If you are short of ideas, look at your competitors and talk to your customers, and you will discover what's missing and what can be dramatically done or improved. There is always at least one thing, usually more, you can bundle two or three powerful market advantages together.
If there is no difference between you and other providers, then people have no reason to choose to work with you.
It is rewarding to always prioritise giving and helping others ahead of taking and receiving.
Networks of people are highly complex and often it is not possible to determine exactly how and why they are working for you, so you should trust that goodness is always rewarded, even if the process is hidden and the effect takes a while.
This can be describe by the principle of 'what goes around comes around'.
A possible explanation of how Karma produces positive outcomes is found in the rule of 'cause and effect', or the scientific law that says 'to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction'.
Givers build reputation and trust and good deeds and helpfulness tend to produce positive effects. They are usually remembered and often times repaid.
Keep your Integrity
Sometimes situations arises which tempts us to do wrong, causing harm or upset others that could have been avoided. Making such a mistake is detrimental to personal integrity.
We are humans; we do make mistakes. If you make a mistake or wrong decision, whether or not it significantly undermines your integrity, always admits it and apologise.
Failing to apologise for wrongs and mistakes often damages a person's integrity and reputation far more than the original misjudgement itself.
Significantly, integrity is vital for trust to develop. There is no trust without integrity. Building trust is important for growing a strong business network. Lack of trust prevents successful business networking.
Seek Relevant Groups and Connections
Be able to Identify and target groups (connections) which are similar to your goal and objectives.
Relevance can be according to several things, thus:
Geography, sector, size, political or religious grouping, social grouping (e.g., ethnic, gender, age, seniority, etc), trade or society grouping, specifically organized networking/ referral groups, academic or technical grouping and other common interest groups (e.g., Fair Trade, social enterprise, environmental, etc)
The more relevant you targeting groups and contacts, the more useful your meetings and referrals will be.
Be vest with the group's needs expectations, rules, and membership composition, and adapt your style and methods accordingly.
Plan your Networking (know what you want and manage it)
All projects need managing and business networking is one, and so it needs managing. You can use various tools to manage your networking.
You should be able to plan and monitor your networking activities.
It is essential to know what you want, because you will be asked directly by potential contacts and you will need to provide a clear answer.
Any activity which has no clear planned is liable to be pulled in all sorts of directions.
As it is true with any project, you will be able to move towards your goal when you keep focusing on it.
You can save yourself stress registering with time wasting websites and attending time wasting events, if you do some research before committing valuable time to deeper involvement.
Follow up your Commitments and Promises
There are two main reasons for following up:
- Networking produces good results only when being follow.
- Following up with contacts builds reputation, trust, and relationships.
As a matter relevance and commitmentm you should follow up: If a contact or referral is relevant, follow it up, and in whatever way is appropriate for the situation.
Be a Positive Influence
Be positive, use positive language, smile, and see the good in people.
Be known as a really positive person. This rubs off on others and others will warm to you for being so.
Be passionate and enthusiastic, but not subjective and emotional.
Avoid personalising situations and stay objective.
Seek criticism and feedback about your ideas and yourself from others. It is the most valuable market research you can get and it’s free.
Be tolerant, patient, calm and serene, especially when others become agitated.
At many networking events and situations you may have the opportunity to deliver a presentation to the assembled group. This is the best opportunity for you to demonstrate your expertise in your specialist area, positive confident character, and also to dish out some useful information. Aim to inform and educate rather than to sell
Be positive, confident and enthusiastic, but do not let this develop into pressure on the audience, or a sense of your trying too hard.
Apply Sustained Focused Effort
Business networking is a form of marketing and all forms of marketing benefit from strongly focused activity, which is necessary to:
- developed awareness, and then
- create relationships to the point when a sale can be made.
This applies especially to business networking websites, where occasional light involvement has great impact, but continuous focused efforts can achieve a visible profile and build very many connections.
You will develop connections in unplanned situations if you:
- make eye-contact with people and smile
- start conversations
- take the initiative
- generally adopt an approach which is open friendly to everyone
- always carry some business cards and a pen
In either cases (planned and unplanned), much depends on what you offer to your connections.
Below is a list of top 10 benefits for business owners who get involved in networking
Generation of New Contacts and Referrals/Increased business
This is most important benefit and the main reason most business owners decide to participate in networking activities and networking groups.
The big news is that the referrals you get through networking are normally high quality and most of the times are even pre-qualified for you. You can later follow up on these referrals and turn them into clients. Therefore you are getting much higher quality leads from networking than other forms of marketing.
The success in business from networking is the major advantage, but there are many others as well.
Visibilities and Opportunities
There are always plenty of opportunities that come from networking and this fact is where the benefits of business networking are huge! For example joint ventures, speaking and writing opportunities, client leads, partnerships, business or asset sales… the list goes on.
Make sure you are jumping on board with the right opportunities and not jumping into any opportunity. The opportunities that you get involved in should align with your business vision/goal, otherwise you might end up spinning your wheels chasing after opportunities and getting nowhere.
In an ever changing business climate it is essential to stay updated with the target market conditions as well as overall trends in your industry. Being vest with the market is important to developing a successful business plan. Networking with your peers and business associates and attending seminars on a regular basis will help you stay current.
It’s not about “what” you know, but “who” you know” (this is true in business). If you want your business to be successful, then you must have a great source of relevant connections in your network that you can contact when you need them.
Networking provides you with a good source of connections, and really opens the door to meet and talk to highly influential people that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to easily talk to or meet.
It’s not all about who you are networking with directly either but also the people they are networking with so this is a chain process. Therefore ask the right questions to find out whether the person you are networking with knows who you want to know.
Problem Solving and Advice
Having like-minded business owners to talk to gives you the opportunity to get advice and information from them on all sorts of things related to your business or your personal life and obtaining that important work-life balance.
Networking is the best way to tap into advice and expertise that you wouldn’t otherwise be able. Just make sure you are getting solid advice from the right person.
Raising your profile
Being visible and getting noticed is a big advantage of networking. Ensure that you are regular in attending business and social events that will help to get your face known. This will help to build your reputation as a reliable, knowledgeable and supportive person by offering useful information or tips to people who need it. Naturally, you will get more leads and referrals as you will be the first that pops into their head when they need what you offer.
The people that you hang around with and talk to often times influence who you are and what you do. Therefore, it is important to get yourself surrounded with positive, uplifting people who can help you to grow and thrive as a business owner. Networking is good at this, due to the fact that business owners who are using networking are normally people that are really going for it, positive and motivative.
Increased confidence and Morale
By regularly networking, and encouraging yourself to meet and talk to people you don’t know, may increased your confidence. This is important as a business owner, because your business growth relay on talking to people and making connections.
Networking is good for people that aren’t confident as it really tends to pushes them to learn how to make conversations and how to grow lasting connections with people they don’t know.
Satisfaction from helping others
Networking is full with business owners that have difficulties or issues within their business that need solving, and there is great satisfaction derived from helping someone to solve a problem they have and get a fantastic result.
Lastly, friendship is more personal than business but is a big benefit. Many relationships/friendships form as a result of networking because (mostly) you are all like-minded business people that want to be successful in their businesses. They meet and help each other continuously and regularly, so naturally strong friendships tend to form.
The purpose and goal of business networking is to increase business revenue in one way or another. The bottom line can be immediately apparent, as in creating a relationship with a new client, or over time, as in the case of learning a new business skill.