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Business Networking Blog

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The key partners for your business

Business NetworkThere was a good article from Jay Love on inc.com this week on 6 Outstanding 'Unofficial' Business Partners. In the article which is well worth a read he identified six relationships that are worth nurturing if you are using informal contacts to drive your business.

 

Using informal contacts to drive your business is at the heart of business networking and these key partners should not be confined to the people you meet at your regular networking groups. In a good group you will be building and maintaining relationships with complementary businesses with similar target markets to yours and these are the cornerstone of your business network. In Jay's article a good 50% of converted business leads came via this group.

 

You will also have other good relationships that could help you to grow your business if you asked. Theses include people you know in industry/trade associations, your professional advisors, key suppliers, customers and old colleagues. Next time you have a conversation with one of these why not explore the additional possibilities with them. You could make a point of speaking with a few of them every week to arrange a catch up.

 

Who are the key informal partners for you in your business and are there people who could be with just a little effort?

 

Good Networking!

Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke

     

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 16:46:39, 09 Mar 12
Tags: Networking Relationships,Business Networking Groups,Networking for Advocates
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Structured or unstructured Networking?

Structured Networking

When you are choosing the right networking events for you there is an enormous choice. This includes both structured and unstructured networking. Unstructured networking tends to be an event where the organiser's main business is some other service. Many business owners and professionals find these a daunting experience. Business Networking membership organisations usually organise more structured events. Some of these are closed and some are open. So which approach suits you?

 

I have had several conversations recently on the subject of different types and styles of networking. One of these was written up by Mark Lee for an article on accountingweb on the subject of open and closed networking. I was contrasting the differing approaches in many structured networking groups between open and closed groups. Mark followed this up with another article from Tim Johnson of 4Networking. Tim explains more about open and closed structured networking here.

 

Closed groups have a rule of only one member per business category. Others (like NRG) are open to more people in the same category. My experience is that an open collaborative approach like this suits many business owners and professionals more than a closed one.

 

To find what works for you it is always best to try some. You could start by asking your trusted contacts where they network.

 

Good Networking!

Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 12:29:26, 15 Mar 11
Tags: Business Networking Groups
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Pull versus Push in Networking

I have a couple of saved searches in Google & Twitter on the subject of business networking. Many of the daily results are for training sessions or webinars on how to get more from your networking. The vast majority of these are focused on crafting the perfect elevator pitch, getting more leads, selling more or becoming a social media expert. It is all about push and completely misses how successful networking really works.

 

I was chatting about this and other stuff recently with Bernie Mitchell of TCS Digital World. I met Bernie a few years ago through networking and he shared his frustrations about the way many people are encouraged to go around passing out business cards like confetti and delivering pitches rather than engaging in conversations. Precisely the wrong approach to successful networking.

 

I asked Bernie about his approach and he said it is all about pull rather than push:

 

"It is about creating attraction without letting off fireworks! Good networks build community, encourage authenticity and facilitate connectedness.


Building community through fostering the right spirit and allowing people to express themselves in a peer to peer environment.


Encouraging authenticity through communicating honestly and without front or putting on an act.


Facilitating connectedness by providing the structure for people to really make the effort to get connected."

 

He also said the people he sees that really get results often appear really quiet for 6 months. The thing that they have done is taken the time to watch, listen and learn first. They have known how to fit in, build relationships, help others first and become attractive.

 

Paraphrasing Stephen Covey from his 7 habits they have sought to understand others first before attempting to be understood!

 

Good Networking!

Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 16:57:31, 22 Feb 11
Tags: How Networking Works,Business Networking Groups,Networking Relationships
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Are you networking with the right people?

I met someone last month at one of my regular networking groups. When he explained what he did I advised him that the group may not be great for him and his business. He sold cosmetics direct to consumers and was there to generate leads for his business. The group was made up of professionals and providers of business services.

 

He said, rightly, that everyone there either used or knew people that used the types of products he sold. I said that was true, but they were all there because they shared the same target market. They were not selling directly to consumers of domestic products so the best network for him would be with others selling directly to the same domestic consumers.

 

Successful networking for business development is all about building relationships with the right people. A good place to start when selecting a networking group for business is to find one where the other members sell to the same target market as you.

 

Good Networking!

Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 15:51:05, 05 Jan 11
Tags: Business Networking Groups,Business Development,Business Networking
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What is a business networking group?

At a dinner party a couple of weeks ago one of the other guests asked me what I do. I used the phrase 'Business Networking Group' in my reply and she said, "What's a Business Networking Group?"

 

I was a little thrown at first, but realised I shouldn't be. I think we often assume that everyone knows more about whatever it is we do than they actually do. I met someone on a Referral Institute training course yesterday who had once written technical manuals. He said that the instructions included the advice to write so that an 8 year old can understand.

 

Wikipedia describes Business Networking as 'a socioeconomic activity by which groups of like-minded businesspeople recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities. A business network is a type of social network whose reason for existing is business activity'.

 

I realised that I needed to explain a little bit more. I explained that there are now many more people running their own business than ever before. Many of them are specialists in what they do and do not have any marketing or sales people. They rely on personal recommendation or word of mouth for their business. Their main problem is that they need more of these opportunities than they currently have. Many of the older business support services in the public and private sector do not really help these business people with generating positive word of mouth.

 

Any group exists because the members share and are committed to a common cause. The common cause for the members of a business networking group will usually be helping each other in business. This may be around sharing business, support and information (or all 3). It is mainly the need to generate more business by recommendation that has lead to the growth in the market of specialist business networking groups.

 

A business networking group is a club where the common cause is helping each other become more successful in business.

 

The most important thing in an effective business networking group is that the members don't just share the same needs. They must be in a position to really help each other. That will often mean that the members share similar target markets and provide similar value services. Success is then down to the commitment and contribution they make.

 

Would an 8 year old understand how you describe what you do?

 

Good Networking!

Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 15:44:23, 05 Jan 11
Tags: Business Development,Business Networking,Business Networking Groups,Communication,How Networking Works,Referrals
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'Don't dive in' is not an excuse for doing nothing
I received a message via Twitter about my recent article, The BIG Mistake That Means Networking Doesn’t Work. The person said she agreed with the article, but thought people may take the advice 'don't dive in' as an excuse for doing nothing.

My main point was that people often start networking with no end in mind. Put some thought into what you want and then get out there and join some networks. Find those groups with other business people who operate in similar markets to you. Commit to investing the time to develop relationships and create a network of advocates.

Many people miss out by not joining a group or joining much later than they should. If you put a little bit of effort into identifying the right places to network up front then you can join in as soon as you find them. If you attend a group & leave it for a few months before joining you are missing opportunities.

One thing is absolutely certain. If you do nothing you will get nothing!

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 11 Aug 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Networking Groups,Business Networking Groups,Networking Tips
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Is there a right time to leave a networking group?
This post was inspired when I was asked recently for a quote for a new book from Andy Lopata on when to leave a networking group.

There are times when you move on in business and different networking groups become more appropriate. If you are networking as part of an overall plan then you will be able to work out when to move on. My experience is that more people leave for the wrong reasons than the right reasons. Many people leave groups because they never really worked out why they should be there in the first place!

Then there are the people who do it for a year and stop because they think it isn’t working. The great shame is that they are usually at the point where their investment is about to reap rewards. They have become known, liked, rated and trusted. Instead of strengthening the relationships they have built they move on to start the whole process again with new people.

Most weeks I will be at an event and someone will ask where X or Y is because they have something for them. If I say they have left the group they almost always ask for a recommendation to somebody else even if I offer to pass their message on.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 29 Jul 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Business Networking Groups,Networking Tips
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Be careful not to leave too early
After a really good networking meeting you will often see people still engrossed in conversations. Many of them will have their diaries to hand arranging meetings. It is this follow up activity in between networking meetings that really make the difference. If you are always rushing off right on time you might be missing out.

We noticed this happening after our NRG group meetings so we now set aside time in the meetings so everyone can be engaged in this activity. Next time you put a networking meeting in your diary try and leave some space beyond the formal end so you don't have to rush off.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 22 Jul 10
Tags: Business Networking,Business Networking Techniques,Business Networking Groups,Networking Follow Up,Networking Tips
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Do business networks collaborate or compete?
"Avoid the competition" was a comment from Courtney Sperlazza in response to my post entitled What is the right approach in business networking? She went on to explain:

"I don't mean to avoid your competitors. What I mean is, avoid the concept of competition. You can work collaboratively with anyone. Even if you're in similar industries, there is something the other guy can do that you can't do and vice versa. Some of us call those things opportunities!"

One of the first steps we encourage in our advocacy model to how business networking really works is to clarify your target market. This is not so you can sell to them at networking events. It is so you can work out who else deals with them and so who you should be networking with to create those opportunities for each other. Real networking is a collaborative activity where you get to build a sustainable route to market for the long term. As I have written before it is not the face to face equivalent of cold calling.

Imagine my surprise this morning when I received a note that said that someone could not attend a meeting of one of our groups because they were a member of a competing network!

Doesn't that miss the point of networks being places to collaborate?

The best example for the networks to set is to collaborate with other networks.

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 10:13:00, 08 Jun 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Networking Groups,Business Networking Groups,Collaboration,Advocacy
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What is the right approach in business networking?
It can be tempting to only 'network' with others who do completely different things to you. People who provide different services or products and those from different professions. In fact some groups only allow for one member from each.

In reality it is often those that are more complementary to you that lead to more and quicker opportunities. The similarities mean you get to establish relationships more quickly and it is much easier to find referrals for each other without going out of your way. Even those groups that exclude members in the same line of business recommend joining other more open groups as part of your overall networking strategy.

In the UK a couple of days ago the new Government took their places in Parliament. For the first time in 70 years in the UK there is a coalition government. Whether it will be a success remains to be seen, but it would be refreshing to see a new politics. One that sees politicians working together for the good of the country rather than constantly doing each other down. If the two parties had looked to their differences it is very likely that we would be in a different situation now. By focusing on similarities they have made progress and have the potential to really change the way things work.

The lesson for us in networking is the many more possibilities that open up with an open and collaborative approach.

Are you looking for the common ground with your network?

Good Networking!
Dave Clarke

Business Networking Blog > Posted by Dave Clarke at 8:08:00, 20 May 10
Tags: Business Networking,How Networking Works,Business Networking Techniques,Business Networking Groups,Collaboration
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