Think of networking as a system & not an event
I was at an event recently where someone said that the owners of small businesses often operate a really unstructured approach to marketing. This is often an irregular series of one off initiatives in relation to short term needs. The problem with this approach is that each new activity takes a lot of effort and does not build on the things that have been done before. It leads to a lot of wasted time and frustration.
Many business owners and professionals adopt a similar approach to networking. Attending loads of events when new business is needed with infrequent activity when they are busy. Both marketing and networking are much more productive when done systematically.
Instead of networking like crazy when you need something adopt a simple, straightforward, systematic approach. This means building your network rather than meeting lots of people infrequently. Take the time to build the right relationships with the right people for you and your business. Then take the time to understand what they need and help them achieve it. Don't forget to let them know what you need and how they can help you. This approach means you can invest your time effectively at fewer events and leave more time to doing what you really enjoy and get paid to do.
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 15:30:37, 05 Jan 11
Tags: Advocacy, Business Networking, Marketing, Networking System, Networking Tips
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Are you building strong ties with your network?
The quality of your network really matters I wrote about recent research into influencing behaviour through social networks. This research highlighted the importance of building close, strong ties to people in your network.
In his keynote at the F5 Conference earlier this year Malcolm Gladwell is quoted as Saying,
If social media tools are going to make a meaningful commitment to the way our world is run you have to remember to build trust, to build institutions and to build strong ties."
Mark Smiciklas of the
Intersection Marketing Blog regularly produces some great visuals in his articles. Here are the ones he used to illustrate the Malcolm Gladwell quote in his article on Malcolm Gladwell & The Future of Social Media a few months ago.
As I have written before,
Success in networking (offline and online) comes down to building a manageable number of relationships amongst people with influence amongst the right audience. Then motivating that network to advocate you."
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 12:47:14, 05 Jan 11
Tags: Advocacy, Business Networking, Trust, Social Media, Social Networking
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Building a business by referring others first
In a recent post I suggested it was a good idea to work out
who else is needed when you do business. This simple exercise means you can work out which other businesses give you the most referral opportunities. Both for giving and receiving.
Someone asked me a couple of days ago if I could give an example. Some years ago I was involved in an Internet start up. We provided high speed internet connectivity to business clients in City of London in the days before broadband! Before we opened for business we built relationships with other providers of services in the Internet, IT and Telecoms space. Services that would be complementary to ours and that our clients and potential clients might also need. Some of these may have been competitors in some respects, but we felt that if they were right for a client then we would not be and vice versa.
These other businesses included providers of:
consumer ISP services - we were b2b only.
computer and computer network equipment - we did not sell this equipment.
email and internet software.
computer cabling suppliers.
telephony and telephony equipment.
Most of the time when we spoke with potential clients they might not need our services at the time, but they needed one of these others and we referred them. This kept us front of mind for both our potential clients and those we referred.
Over time all of our business came through referrals from these sources. The 'potential clients' became clients or referred others as a result of the help we provided for them. Those we referred then stated doing the same for us. Many of these relationships also resulted in more collaboration, but that's another story...
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 12:41:55, 05 Jan 11
Tags: Word of Mouth, Referrals, Recommendation, Inner Network, How Networking Works, Business Development, Advocacy
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Who else is needed when you do business?
A couple of months back I was with a group of Professionals and Small Business Owners in Birmingham learning more about Referral Marketing at the Referral Institute's UK & Ireland Conference. The theme of the day was about how you can dramatically increase your referred revenue. One topic covered by Trey McAlister was about understanding 'Contact Sphere Professionals'. These people are in a position to regularly refer each other.
It is worth spending some time identifying this group for your business. Who else is often needed when you do business? What opportunities do you uncover as you go about your work? What other opportunities could you uncover as you go about your work?
This process of identifying them also gives you an idea of the opportunities you have for referring and building your inner network. As you do this for them you are demonstrating how they can do the same for you and others. You are advocating them and providing the motivation for them to do it for you.
You really can get all the business you need through a close knit group of like minded business owners like this. That is provided you are all committed to the success of each other and are all in a position to regularly provide opportunities to each other. You need to meet regularly to strengthen your relationships and exchange opportunities. Why not find a convenient networking group that you can do this in?
You are also adding value to your client relationships by showing them you have their success at heart and not just your own.
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 12:41:25, 05 Jan 11
Tags: Advocacy, Inner Network, Referrals
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Do you nurture your network like a good garden?
Nurturing your network can be similar to tending your garden. In a garden different trees, plants and shrubs require differing amounts of attention to enable them to grow and thrive. It's the same with your network. Some relationships need very little maintenance, some require much more at the start and others need constant attention. Many people, though, think of networking as being all about connecting with as many people as possible. This approach leaves you very little time to build the right relationships. Your garden would soon be over-run with weeds if you neglected that personal care and attention. At this time of year some extra attention is required to ensure the health of your garden for the Winter and in preparation for Spring. In his column in the Financial Times on Saturday Mike Southon offered some advice on networking including some " radical pruning of the people in our on-line networks". The article is worth a read and as Mike wrote, " Any network is all about quality rather than quantity, the depth rather than the breadth of your connections." Good Networking! Dave Clarke
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 13:05:00, 25 Oct 10
Tags: Business Networking, How Networking Works, Online Networking, Networking Relationships, Building Your Network
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An offline networking lesson from Linkedin
Many business people are comfortable with Linkedin. The online tools seem based around the way networking has always worked offline. Used well the Linkedin tools add value to your offline networking. In a peer to peer boardroom session recently we were discussing how someone could get in front of good prospects for a new high value consulting service. One of the difficulties this person had was helping his network identify referral opportunities. We got the person to identify some real companies he could work with. We then searched linkedin for contacts in those companies. Linkedin showed those in our existing networks who were connected to these 'prospects'. The action the person took away from the boardroom was to try and get introductions to these prospects via his network. Linkedin makes that whole process very open & simple. It can be very difficult offline to know who our network knows. One way to help is to identify the the actual companies you want to work with. Then tell your network who they are, how you help and why you want to be introduced. Once you are in a trusted relationship it is well worth setting aside regular one to one time where you explore each others connections and the opportunies within. Good Networking! Dave Clarke
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:35:00, 19 Oct 10
Tags: Business Networking, How Networking Works, Offline Networking, Linkedin, Online Networking
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Who are the best introducers?
I was running the NRG Bath lunch yesterday. Small group but really great people. In the morning I ran a session for the group members where we were helping each other work out who their best introducers were. They knew their target market but found it difficult, like most people, to work out who else knew that market. As we went round the table it became clear that there was one category of introducers that were really desirable. They are the 'trusted advisors', those business professionals who help the business owner/director with specific issues. They might be outsourced finance directors, accountants, business coaches or virtual PAs. They all share the same thing - they understand the business owner's drivers and issues and they have that person's ear. That's easy then. Just aim to meet those 'trusted advisors' and wait for that steady stream of referrals. Of course it doesn't work like that. It is one thing identifying these special people, it is another thing getting them to refer you. That's where relationship building comes in. Only when they know you, like you, trust you will they consider referring you. And only when they are motivated to do so. To start that process of building these critical advocate relationships put yourself in the shoes of John F Kennedy and, to paraphrase "ask not what they can do for you but what you can do for them". Good Networking! Martin Davies
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 13:12:00, 15 Oct 10
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You have a Linkedin profile so now what?
I get asked regularly by business people and professionals about using Linkedin. Here is a short video from the clever folks at Commoncraft that explains it all in very simple language.
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Grant Bagwell at 9:31:00, 15 Oct 10
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Put yourself in their shoes
Most weeks I meet someone who works on their own and who says something like, " I work with blue chips so need to be 'networking' with CEOs, CFOs, CTOs etc of Corporates, Blue Chips etc". Stop for a moment and think about the responsibilities these CXO people have and their priorities. Where do you think meeting a bunch of people at a networking group fits? Instead of thinking about finding these people directly put yourself in their shoes. What are the things they worry about and who do they turn to for advice? That will give you some idea of where to focus your networking efforts. With their other trusted advisers and suppliers! Spend your time building relationships with these people. They are the ones that have influence with and access to your target market. Good Networking! Dave Clarke
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 12 Oct 10
Tags: Business Networking, How Networking Works, Trust, Networking Relationships
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How to amplify and not dilute your message
Why does Word of Mouth Marketing work so well? That was the recent headline of an article by my colleague in NRG Business Networks, Martin Davies. Stuart Harris Replied on Twitter, " WoM marketing is great because it's personal but the person isn't paid ("hire a liar") - they recommend or not from the heart". The subject came up yesterday at a seminar on Linkedin before the NRG lunch in Swindon. We know, and research confirms, that a recommendation or referral from a trusted 3rd party is much more powerful than any direct message of yours. That's why networking is not about broadcasting your message to as many people as possible. Neither is it about meeting as many people as you possibly can yourself. That just dilutes your effort. Build strong relationships with a close trusted network. They will deliver those precious 3rd party recommendations and your message will be amplified many times over. ! Good Networking Dave Clarke
Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:22:00, 06 Oct 10
Tags: Business Networking, How Networking Works, Word of Mouth, Linkedin, Twitter
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