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Business Networking Blog

Building trust with a new contact
In a One2One meeting with an NRG-networks member last month the person said to me,

"My business has always come from recommendation (word of mouth). Usually as a result of some work I have done for a client where I have done a good job and built a relationship. My problem is that with a relatively small client base I am not getting enough referrals. I understand that networking is all about building relationships first, but how do I move from meeting someone to starting a business relationship?"

That question is not unusual and the answer is all about how you engage and follow up after making contact. I thought it worth sharing the first steps that some of the successful networkers use intuitively. These were confirmed in the findings of the NRG business networking research I mentioned in 'How to build trust in business relationships'.

In order to start building a relationship you have to have some sort of agreed follow up. When you meet someone you will have an initial impression of whether you like them or not. If you do or feel you may in time then the first thing is to give full attention to them. Ask questions about them and their business to establish common ground. Once you do that you will get an impression of whether you can help this person over time. Do you know people or information that will be useful to them?

Your follow up can take a number of forms;
1. agreeing to chat at the next group meeting
2. keeping in touch with email if you have permission
3. putting them in touch with someone
4. sending some useful information
5. committing to a group the other person is a member of
6. arranging an informal (One2One) meeting to get to know them better

The informal meetings are the key way of establishing trusted relationships. This will not be appropriate as a first step in many cases, especially at one off meetings. Joining a group of like minded individuals in some sort of membership group is a sign of commitment and a signal to the others that you are placing some trust in them. Like many things that you want to receive you must give first.

So to gain trust you give trust first.

Good Networking
Dave Clarke
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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:00:00, 03 Apr 09
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Trust,Networking Relationships
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How to build trust in business relationships
I read a great piece from Benjamin Ellis recently entitled 'On-line Trust, More than Liking'. It's well worth a read if you have time. The issue of building trust is vital in both online and offline networking and some of the advice contained is excellent:

* Be open and transparent.
* Be predictable and consistent.
* Be visibly accountable.

A few years back we conducted some research into the importance of developing trust in business relationships as part of networking. The article 'Have you unlocked the benefits of business networking?' includes a link to the full findings.

Building a trusted business relationship in a networking context is a simple process:
1. Make contact
2. Follow up
3. Form relationships
4. Develop Advocates

Like many simple things that does not mean it is easy!

I will highlight some of the ways you can build trust at each stage of the process over the next few posts.

Good Networking
Dave Clarke
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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:00:00, 02 Apr 09
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Offline Networking,Networking Transactions,Trust,Online Networking
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Social Media in Plain English
Another great video by Lee LeFever of Commoncraft.com explaining 'Social Media in Plain English'.



Good Networking
Dave Clarke
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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 17:14:00, 01 Apr 09
Tags: Social Media,Plain English
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Asking better questions
I have just read 'At your fingertips, A guide to successful online business networking' by William Buist. It is full of really practical stuff on the effective use of online networks.

The section on asking better questions brought to mind a discussion at a recent NRG-networks seminar on effective 121 meetings. The consensus in the discussion was that questions were really important in demonstrating that you are listening attentively. They help you build trust as you show a genuine interest in the other person and their goals. As the other person shares more in their answers you can really find out how to help and who to introduce them to.

In the book William suggests asking "What is your expertise?" rather than the standard "What do you do?". A better question will make the other person think more about the answer and will lead to a better conversation.

Good Networking
Dave Clarke
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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:00:00, 31 Mar 09
Tags: Business Networking,One2One,Trust
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What should you blog about?
At a recent seminar after the monthly NRG-networks lunch at Marble Arch in London Internet Psychologist, Graham Jones, was talking about 2 simple ways to double your website traffic. One of the questions he posed was what was common to the websites we all visit regularly? The answer being content, content and more content.

In my recent article 'top 10 tips for building business with the effective use of offline & online networks' tip 7 is that your blog is the cornerstone of your online presence & you build your reputation by sharing your expertise. The important thing is that you are sharing content that is relevant to your intended audience.

I was talking about this last week with the owner of a printing company and he asked me what he should blog about. I asked him about the problems that his customers are looking to solve when they use his services. All of the examples he gave me were about how his business customers were looking to improve the ways they communicated their marketing messages. As a marketer he had a clear understanding of their issues and many practical examples of where he had helped. My reply to him was that those were the things to blog about. The stories, hints, tips, & insights from his clients' issues and problems are great content to add value to others with similar issues.

If he regularly generates that content and communicates that through his network he will build an audience of interested readers. Many of them will know people with the issues and problems that need an expert like him.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke
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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 15:09:00, 30 Mar 09
Tags: Business Networking,Word of Mouth,Social Media,Managing reputation,Blog
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How do I use Twitter & Social Networks?
Quite a few people have asked me recently about using Social Media & Social Networking sites to promote their business. As I result I wrote an article for our website on my top 10 tips for building business with the effective use of offline & online networks. I have also developed a seminar on this to present at our NRG monthly networking lunch groups in the UK.

Social media and social networks provide great tools to help build your profile and develop relationships alongside your offline activities. It is important that you consider this strategically otherwise you may waste a lot of your precious time.

To help on deciding where to invest your time and effort strategically ask yourself a question.

"On which social media & social networks will I find those people with access & influence in my market?"

Once you decide which are right for you then you can then share the stories, hints, tips, & insights that you blog about. As I say in my top 10 tips article your blog is the cornerstone of your online presence & is the place you build your reputation.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke
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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 10:48:00, 25 Mar 09
Tags: Social Networking,Business Networking,Social Media,Twitter,Managing reputation,Blog
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Networking Groups are a great route to market
I meet many owners, directors and partners of small specialist businesses and professional firms. They all tell me they get their best business via word of mouth and recommendation. The problem they have is that their existing client base is not large enough to generate enough of it.

That is where networking groups come into their own. If your existing network is not big enough to generate enough word of mouth to achieve your plan then find a couple of networks to join. Ask yourself who else is likely to have access to and influence with your target market. Then find where they network, join those groups and build relationships with others like you. Over time your return on the investment you make in those relationships will far outweigh your initial money & time investment.

A combination of existing clients and appropriate networking groups should be enough of a route to market for most of these owners, directors and partners of small specialist businesses and professional firms.

When you join first join a group take the time to get to know the members and the ways you can help. How you can support, provide information & introductions. How you can help them achieve their goals. Over time as you help the other members achieve their goals they do the same for you. Especially if they know how to help you. So when asked present your proposition confidently & consistently - your target market, the problems you solve and your stories.

In one of my podcasts on this same topic, 'Why join a networking group?', I explain how one networking group saved me 3 years in business development activity.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke
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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 11:46:00, 23 Mar 09
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Word of Mouth
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How much business do you want to generate from your networking?
One of the questions in a previous post, 'Developing a networking plan', was 'how much business are you looking to generate via word of mouth?'.

Here are some things you can look at to help calculate this;
1. Revenue Target for year:
(What is the amount of business you want to generate?)
2. Average Transaction size:
(What is your average deal size?)
3. Number of deals required (1/2) =
(Divide the amount of business by average deal size)
4. How many prospects do you need for a sale =
(What is your closing ratio?)
5. Total prospects needed (4 X 3) =
(Multiply the number of deals by the number of prospects)
6. How many referrals per prospect =
(Not every referral will be a prospect)
7. Referrals required (5 X 6) =
(Multiply the number of prospects with referrals)



Now for the really important part. The number of referrals you need is the amount you need to be generating first for other people in your network. This will give you a good idea of the amount of time you need to invest in your networking activity.

As I have said previously the best way to generate referrals is to give them first.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke
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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:00:00, 12 Mar 09
Tags: Business Networking,Word of Mouth,Referrals
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Developing a networking plan
"It pays to plan ahead it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark"

Somewhere in your office you may well have a business plan.
Even better, you may have a marketing plan!
If you do does it include your networking activity?
If you don’t know where you are going with your networking how can others help you?

The second of our '10 tips for building business with the effective use of offline & online networks' is develop a plan.

Answer the following:
- what is your target market?
- what are the problems you solve for them?
- how much business are you looking to generate via word of mouth?
- how much time can you devote to your networking activities?

Identify others likely to have access to your target market
- how do you get to know them?
- how can you help them achieve their goals?

When you can answer these questions you are have the basis of a networking plan which you can begin acting on right away.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke
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business networking | business networking events | business networking podcast


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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:00:00, 11 Mar 09
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Networking Objectives
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Getting comfortable with how networking works
I had a One2One meeting with an NRG-networks member earlier this week. He wanted to update me on a new business he was involved in and get my views. When I first met him four years ago he had just bought a franchise. That was his first foray into the small business or SME world. He explained that in his first year he had beaten the previous best first year by more than double.

We explored how he had managed to do that. He explained that NRG-networks were the first network he joined and then others followed. He attended regularly and helped everyone he met by offering them some valuable input in their marketing communications. He didn't sell to anyone, but referrals and business flowed his way.

In yesterday's post, 'The same networking rules apply in the real world & the online world', I featured Seth Godin talking about networking and explaining that "Networking is all about helping people achieve their goals reliably and repeatedly then guess what? They start to do the same for you!"

Tip 1 in my '10 tips for building business with the effective use of offline & online networks' is get comfortable with how networking works. It's not about meeting people once and moving on. It is all about building relationships first and may require a different approach to the one you are used to.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke
Get 7 networking secrets for business success

business networking | business networking events | business networking podcast


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Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:00:00, 06 Mar 09
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Networking Relationships
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