An often underrated part of your marketing mix, networking, when done correctly, can be the most effective source of new leads and sales in your business. Also known as relationship marketing, networking expands your sphere of influence, and lets people get to know you and your company on a more intimate level.
Remember the social theory of 6 degrees of separation - that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than 5 intermediaries? Well in business that separation is even closer.
And that's why networking works. Everyone you know and don't know is connected to you in some way, so if more people know who you are and what you do, then you've more chance of hearing from them. This is the theory behind networking and why it works...
If you look closely at high achievers and other successful business people, you'll find that they rarely achieve their goals on their own. These people have mastered the art of networking. They have built a support network around themselves that assists them to achieve their goals.
The same rule can apply to your business, no matter how large or small it may may be. Having a solid network of well-developed contacts to assist you in all areas of your business will put you one step ahead of your competitors.
Remember: Networking can take on many different forms - not just breakfast, lunches and drinks events etc, so be on the lookout for any opportunity where you can meet and mingle with new people. You never know who, the people you meet on a plane, in a bar or at the races, may know.
That being said, however, purpose-designed business networking events will give you a great opportunity to practice your skills in a controlled environment.
Here's a few handy tips on how to maximise your networking effectiveness, and maintain profitable relationships with people...
1. Get out there!
Attending events held by business networking groups, government organisations, potential or current strategic alliances, community and interest groups can dramatically increase your market intelligence and social network. Remember, when buying, people buy the person, not the company, so it pays to take some time out and make sure people can put a face to your company name.
You'll be impressed how taking the time to attend these types of events can expand your business opportunities. Don't rush the process, however, networking is not a quick fix. You need to take your time and develop working relationships with your prospects. Also, remember that it's not just about the people you meet, but also the people that they know. Don't think short-term ...remember, you may not do business directly with the person you have met, however, they may have clients and business associates that might need your product or services in the near future.
2. Keep your finger on the pulse!
Always check community notice boards, newspapers, business magazines and the Internet to stay abreast of expos, events and new products on the market. This will ensure your business stays up-to-date with all the latest innovations and will inevitably generate a strong circle of business associates. Remember the old saying ..."It's not what you know, but who you know".
3. Hone those social skills
Networking functions are all about stepping outside your comfort zone in order to move forward. For this reason, it's vital to hone those social skills! Hanging around the table of nibbles and talking quietly with people you already know won't help your business in the long run.
Introduce yourself to people you don't know, ask relevant questions, listen carefully and try to make intelligent contributions to conversations. Take a genuine interest in the person that you are listening too. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so listen carefully.
Not all people are naturally outgoing, and that's ok. If you're nervous, think about attending a professional development seminar.
Remember, it's all about developing quality contacts, not quantity. Get to know the people that will be of most benefit to your business. Terri Cooper has a great series of networking breakfasts and lunches throughout the year... to find out more visit www.terricooper.com.au
5. Stay in touch
Once you've cemented some solid business friendships it's important that you maintain them. Letting your contacts know that you appreciate them goes a long way. Organising social functions outside of work, sending a thankyou card or even an eCard is a great start.
As you build your database of contacts, you may like to consider automating your contact with them. A system such as Altitude's FastTrack eMarketing system can help you to maintain personal contact with each of your prospects without adding to your daily to-do list.
For more informationon how to maximise your networking effectiveness and also dicover smarter ways to retain your valued customers using the FastTrack eMarketing system, contact Altitude Communications on 07 3102 3550 or email us by clicking here.