Building business relationships – do you have a networking strategy?

“It’s not what you know but who you know . . . .”  Even in today’s digital world, this phrase is still so true! For many small business owners, networking alongside other marketing tools such as social media, email marketing and writing a blog are key parts in building and growing their business. Building a network not just of clients but also of trusted associates that you can turn to should you need to is key, without a strong network, it is much harder for businesses to survive, let alone thrive. Defining your networking strategy and approach is really important.

When you start to network, as with all of your marketing activity it is important to consider your goals and objectives? What are you trying to achieve? Yes, networking can help you to find customers, but is also a great opportunity for learning, inspiration and support to help you grow your business. Being clear on your networking strategy and what success looks like will help you to understand if it has been successful or not. There are many networking groups out there and it may take a few attempts to find the right group that suits you and your business.

What are your networking goals?

Your goals will vary, depending upon your business focus and type, they could include:

  • Finding new clients.
  • Finding new business contacts who do a complimentary role to you, for example an Accountant looking for a bookkeeper would be a perfect match!
  • Developing existing relationships – catching up with past colleagues and reconnecting with people can help you to consider things from a different perspective.
  • Support. Finding people to help you in your business could be a great objective, for example you maybe looking for a Solicitor to draw up some paperwork for you.

Networking tips:

Carving the time out to network alongside all of your other day-to-day tasks is not easy, therefore it is crucial that you have a strategy to ensure your efforts are focused correctly. Here are some key tips and things to think about:

Less focus on selling, more focus on people. This is so true, no one likes the person in the room that is just there to sell to you, I am sure they will not see the results from it, but by building up a conversation and perhaps thinking about how you can help them is a great place to start.

Be inquisitive. Show interest in other people and don’t just wait for a break in the conversation so you can start to talk about yourself. I heard some great advice recently, someone I network with regularly has a summary of three killer questions that she can ask if needed. Some question ideas to get you thinking –

  • “Who is your target audience?”
  • “What is a good connection for you today?”
  • “Tell me more about art you do?”
  • “Tell me one unusual thing about you.

Help Others. There is a theory presented in a book by Bob Burg and John David Mann called “The Go-Giver”. It is a really easy read and a story of an ambitious young man keen to get ahead in his company Sales Man. The book presents the idea that the more you give the more you receive back, if you have not yet had a chance to read it, I highly recommend that you do.

Add value and share your expertise. By helping others, they will remember you, should they need your help in the future and associate you as being an expert in this field. Plus, it will create a real sense of satisfaction that we have helped someone else out.

Follow Up. This is really important, if you promise to connect someone, meet them for a 1:1 or send them some information do make sure that you take the time to follow up. When you don’t, what impression could this give someone about how you treat your customers?  We all like it when people do what they say they are going to do, and it makes us feel more comfortable about referring them.  Plus, following up and maintaining contact is a great way of standing out and being more memorable.

We have seen a big transformation in the way that people network and connect over recent months. Most groups have gone online and whilst you certainly do miss something from the in person contact, from a time and convenience factor online networking definitely does bring some benefits. It will be interesting to see how things evolve forward but certainly a blend of in person and online networking seems to be the way forward.

If you have a marketing challenge and would like some help in building your marketing strategy (including outlining your networking approach), please do get in touch!

Sophie Comas

A highly successful self-motivated and results driven, senior marketing professional. My passion lies within developing and delivering marketing solutions which make a difference in today's complex digital market place. A marketeer with a strong academic background and broad ranging level of experience working with small businesses and in the travel and hospitality sector, across the Thames Valley, I love a challenge!

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