By Dan Munson
Networking is a very powerful part of marketing that yields great results. It is as impactful as it is cost-effective. However, it should not be entered into lightly but should be a part of an overall strategic marketing plan. Networking should be a marketing strategy that business owners can use on an on-going basis – to build key relationships and ultimately increase sales.
If you have not made networking a part of your overall marketing strategy, read on. We provide information about how something as simple as networking can help your business land more clients.
The Benefits of Networking
Since people like to do business with those they know and trust, one of the key benefits of networking is that it allows business owners to get to know each other and build a rapport. That way they can learn more about you and get to know you better, which helps them feel more comfortable about moving forward with you in the future.
Another great benefit of networking is that it allows you to establish long-term relationships when you properly nurture the people you meet when networking.
Using networking as a means to build strategic alliances, joint ventures or as a means to promote each other‘s products or services. When you become a mouthpiece for other businesses, they will gladly become a mouthpiece for you. In fact, you will notice that more doors will begin to open as you prove to have the best interest of others at heart.
Another benefit of networking is that it essentially helps you make yourself known among other business associates. Networking allows you to become known among those that can become sales leads, business partners, strategic alliances and so forth. Nonetheless, it gets your name out there and gets you plugged into key organizations, which ultimately increases sales. According to Ellis’s Brenneman, of Ethos 360, networking is a form of advertising. And we all know how important advertising is.
Knowing What to Say: The 30-Second Elevator Pitch
While attending networking events, it’s important to have a general idea as to what you’re going to say when speaking to people at various events. Obviously, this may change a bit depending on the type of event you are attending, however, there are some basic things that every business owner should be able to communicate when meeting people for the first time.
The 30-second elevator pitch is highly recommended. Primarily because you don’t know how much time you’re going to have to spend with someone, so having your 30-second elevator pitch in mind is a very helpful way to let people know:
(a) who you are
(b) who your target audience is
(c ) how your target audience can benefit from your product or service or basically the
problems your business solves.
According to Forbes, it’s very important not to wing it when you’re networking, but to be prepared to speak to people in a clear, concise manner. So basically, your elevator pitch should be short and to the point. The key is to be prepared and go over your elevator pitch advance to enhance your confidence.
Building Trust and Credibility
Most people can tell when you lack the confidence needed to communicate well with others. If you appear uncertain, others will notice it. If you’re not sure about various aspects of your industry or other things that you should know based on the product or service you provide, this will also provide some unwanted exposure concerning your lack of knowledge. It will also lend itself to doubt among your new contacts as well.
Another thing that could impact your level of confidence is not having enough industry experience in general. So if you are new, you may face some challenges in this area. It may cause you to feel somewhat unsure and create a certain level of skepticism among potential business prospects.
If you are trying to land new clients, it’s important that you have the skill set to deliver the product or service as promised. Not only will you have something to talk about concerning your capabilities, but your experience can also be used to create a portfolio that others may refer to when considering your businesses for future products or services.
An additional approach that will give you a leg up, however, is content marketing. You can develop content to your advantage if you happen to be new. It allows you to display your knowledge about a particular subject area, which is a great way to boost your confidence. The areas that you are uncertain about can be researched and used to create a well-written article, blog or other forms of online content.
When most people meet potential business prospects associates at networking events, they often look the other up online, either once they return to their office or while they are still at the event itself. Having an adequate amount of content on online suggest you are knowledgeable, plugged into the industry and have a web presence, which significantly enhances your credibility.
Networking at Business Functions
One of the best places to network and meet new people is at business events, such as conferences, workshops, and meetings.
When meeting people at your local Chamber of Commerce, industry-based events, local or regional business associations or during business meetings, they are all great places to introduce yourself, talk to others and get plugged into various groups and organizations when feasible. This low to no cost strategy can help business owners grow their new business a lot faster than those who don’t network in this regard.
Whether you network online or offline, both are very beneficial. When you network in person it allows you to meet individuals face-to-face in ways that you can’t do online. However, networking online has its benefits too. It allows you to utilize digital marketing strategies by following up with individuals you’ve recently met at corporate functions or individuals that you are targeting for the first time.
You can join online forums and discussion groups, Facebook groups and respond to comments and posts via Twitter, YouTube Google+ and other online platforms where there is a large flow of communication. Not only does networking online allow you to participate in the lead generation process, but it also allows you to keep the networking going throughout the year.
Do Your Homework
To take your networking to the next level, it’s important to do your homework – meaning that if there is a particular business executive or other individuals that you’d like to do business with, look them up ahead of time and find out what they are in need of. Strike up a conversation to let them know that you are the best man (or woman) for the job. This approach should be done in a very skillful and discrete manner, however. Sometimes you may need to test the waters to see how the conversation is flowing and make adjustments accordingly. If it seems that you should just keep it short, then maybe you can use the 30-second elevator pitch as an icebreaker or as a means to make a connection now then follow up later.
In essence, doing your homework allows you to avoid networking in an aimless and random manner. It allows you to develop strategies to network with people that you actually need to meet and need to do business with.
The disadvantage of not doing your homework in advance is that you may meet several people that do not add value or contribute to your business growth in any manner whatsoever. Unfortunately, these individuals can take up a lot of time and just proved to be tire kickers rather than those you can do business with.
Setting Goals When Networking
When you have goals in mind, your approach towards networking will be a lot different than those who don’t set goals. Those who do not set goals tend to randomly wander about without any real direction or objectives as to what they want to get out of attending various events. For example, you may have a goal to meet 10 potential customers each week or five companies or individuals who can provide subcontracting work.
You may have also set a goal to meet someone who is more experienced than you are who can either introduce you to other key players in the industry or allow you to work with them on larger projects. Setting goals to connect with well-seasoned professionals will add a lot of mileage to your efforts and the overall growth of your business.
Finally, when you’re networking with others, it’s important that you don’t overwhelm them with too many details too soon. You should be sensitive to how the conversation is flowing and become aware of when a person is beginning to feel overwhelmed and inundated. So don’t come on too strong or you may lose a few prospects. Remember, coming prepared with plenty of professional looking business cards in hand and a game plan is also very important. Have impressive stories to share and be prepared to be a great listener. And last but not least, be sure to follow up to maximize your networking efforts to build mutually beneficial, lasting relationships and increase sales.