You’re Not Networking, You’re Growing Your Business Community
What does “networking” mean to you? Does it conjure up “wider community” be it business or wider community organisations or just bring sweaty palms & nerves?
Just the word”networking” can put a lot of people off but really you’re just building your business community. It can benefit both your business and you as a person as well as the wider community.
Networked businesses tend to be open, random, and supportive, whereas those relying on hierarchical, traditional managed approaches can be closed, selective, and controlling.
Successful networks and business communities help you with resilience to outside forces likes the recession & can aid you in meeting new clients, raising your profile, exploring new suppliers/ ideas / markets / partnerships / funding.
But what are the right networking methods for you & does it have to be face to face? In truth, a mix of the marketing approaches below can get you and your organisation the best results.
Methods of Marketing to Maximise Your Outreach:
Face to Face is the most obvious but it can take so many different forms both formal & informal though:
1:1’s /seminars or workshops / formal networking meet-ups / dinners / charity events / co-working days / training days / away days
Coffee & chat / cluster group meet-ups / meeting colleagues for a chat in the corridor / a quick bite for lunch
So it doesn’t have to be a big, daunting group meet-up, it can be a casual 1:1 affair (in business terms)!!!!
Creating local awareness through community events.
This will create brand awareness as well as helping with corporate & social responsibility, green ethics, community and cultural involvement. REMEMBER – “SHOP LOCAL” Perhaps there are community groups & initiatives already in place that your business could hook up with or perhaps you could start your own. Partner up with other businesses to help eachother with projects eg “urban garden schemes”, “canal cleanups”.
Referrals and Word of Mouth from Existing Clients
Skype & Google Hangout calls
Social Media through Facebook / Twitter etc
Email Marketing, Lead generation
Blogs / Newsletters / Videos
Published Articles can be “top tips”, “how to’s”, “profiling”, “case studies”, “testimonials”, “workshops” and much more
I’m really not the biggest fan of the formal suited & booted, old boys network type of meetings & I really hate the word “Networking”. However, there is an argument to say that most businesses need an element of every type of networking method in their marketing mix.
You need to get to know your clients & create meaningful dialogue but they will usually have a multitude of backgrounds & interests & so by using one method of communication you’re never going to conquer all! A mix of face to face / social media / calling / & blogging will hopefully go a long way to helping.
Other names for networking:
Meet N Greet; Mingle; Hob Nob; Run Elbows; Schmooze; Associate.
Top tips for handling these meetings if you’re a bit nervous
Create yourself an “Elevator Pitch” of 30 seconds & no more. This will create an impression of confidence & preparation. No matter whether you’re at a formal meeting or having a coffee with friends, you’ll often be asked “What is your company about?” or “What do you do for a living?” If you have something prepared then you will feel so much more confident, but keep it concise and include the following:
Your name, business, where you’re based, your specialism / offering & your aims & always end positively.
2. If you’re presenting then the following structure can also help:
Know your audience (who are you targeting), know their moans & concerns?
State their problem- isn’t it frustrating when….
Show them your expertise or solution….
Present them with the solution & its benefits
Leave them with a “call to action”
End with 1 quick tip
3. Be aware of your body language
Stand tall & proud, don’t slouch as people will think you’re completely disinterested (you might be but don’t let them know).When speaking try to look the other person in the eyes, be aware of his/her body language to use as a guide for interest and reaction to you personally, and to help your assessment of the other person’s character and mood.
4. If you get there early……
it’s easier to start conversations as 1:1’s or smaller groups, judge the environment, never try to approach a closed circle / group engrossed in discussion
5. Opening discussion “What brings you here? How long have you been a member of this organisation? Hi, I’ve never been to this event before. You look like a regular—any tips you could give me on what to expect? What are the best sessions here? What’s your story?
6. Always try to be interested and ask open ended questions, try to pick up on hobbies / interests & things the other person is clearly passionate about. DO NOT just talk about yourself & try to talk for around 5/10 minutes & then move on. DO NOT GO straight for the business card & sales pitch, always build the relationship first.
7. Closing a conversation, be polite & exit gracefully. Perhaps if you’ve met a good contact then you could arrange a follow up or it could be time to move to the next workshop etc.
What groups / meet-ups would interest you going forward, maybe:?
Open coffee mornings
Cluster groups for particular industries e.g. Wired Newry (digital businesses), Glug (for Creatives), Write Club (for writers), Geek Club
Business Curry Club / Craft Beer
Business Scouts – new to starting up a business?