Networking can only ever be one part of your overall business marketing strategy. But it is a critical skill for anyone who is looking to succeed in business.
All businesses lose approximately 30% of their customers each year – so you continually need to replenish your sales pipeline. As it can take some time to build relationships to the point were a prospect has enough trust in you to do business with you, you must always be looking for new clients and new opportunities. Many business people find networking is a highly cost effective way of generating new business. It is often much cheaper than traditional promotional methods such as advertising or exhibiting.
The cost is usually based on time and personal commitment and only a small amount of actual financial investment. The time to start is not when you need to find new business, but long before that – in fact you should never stop networking. To use networking as an effective business tool and to use it to help you build productive business links, you must network continuously… and keep on networking! But be clear why you want to network – make sure you understand your objectives. Networking is not about selling, it’s about building mutually beneficial relationships.
Preparing Yourself and Know the Benefits
Before you ‘go networking’ think about what you can offer – what is it that other people might find helpful or useful? Some people will say “I don’t have to network, I’ve enough business” or “I’m very busy, I don’t need any more clients”.
This is never true.
Now is the time to find those future clients; now is the time to develop those relationships. You are not after the quick sale, but future customers, clients and even suppliers.
How to get Started
There are many different ways you can network both online and offline.
Think about all your contacts. Check through all your e-mails over the last 12 months – who could you reconnect with? Write down all those people, social or business, who you have ‘lost touch with’ and make it part of your plan to follow-up and get back in contact with a few each month. Write down who you would like to be in touch with – who are the Top 5 people you want to be connected to?
Make this part of your plan.
There are many occasions when business people meet and network. They may belong to a Networking Club, who meet on a regular basis, or meet socially at the Golf Club – the Old Boy Network still flourishes! Organised networking groups or clubs usually meet weekly, fortnightly or monthly for breakfast or lunch for the sole purpose of generating new business for themselves and other members.
Business networking can be conducted locally or globally via the World Wide Web. Many social and business networking websites are available via the internet, where you can now connect with people from all over the world.
There are over 200 social networking sites listed on Wikipedia,ranging from Facebook with 600 million members and LinkedIn with 100 million users down to local sites with a few hundred members. Many sites specialise in the business arena, such as Ecademy, LinkedIn, Plaxo and Ryze. Business people can use these internet networking sites to raise their profile and connect with like minded people. Networking is a continuous process and building a database of contacts can help you in all aspects of your life.
A Referral generates 80% more results than a cold call.
Approx 70% of all jobs are found or filled through Networking.
Most people have 200 / 250 contacts
What Networking Is:
- connecting with other people
- building relationships with other people
- helping and sharing knowledge with others
- finding people who are interesting and beneficial
- introducing business opportunities to you and others
What Networking is not:
- hard sell
- promoting or selling products / services
- finding a job
- gaining charity donations
- arranging funding
- schmoozing to gain something
However, done correctly networking will help you in all these areas.(Apart from stalking!)
Paul Ashbury is a Networking Evangelist, an author, speaker and director of one of the UK’s most successful networking organisations – Focus On Networking.
He has more than 40 years Sales & Marketing experience and over the last 10 years has help companies and individuals improve their networking skills.