In today’s cutthroat competition between businesses, marketing is really important for any business. Marketing can consist of organic (free) or paid strategies. Typically, due to the limited availability of funds, small businesses often struggle with paid marketing or promotional activities. In that case, you can use networking in marketing to grow your business at a very fast pace.
Networking is the strategy to connect with other professionals in order to further your business.
Networking is a form of Outbound Marketing only, where the business reaches out to its customer, directly or indirectly. But in this form of marketing, you need to connect on a personal level first. You have to take the time to know the user better. By knowing their preferences, you can customise your marketing strategy so that they can help you gain more customers or become a customer themselves.
Networking is about interacting with people and engaging them for mutual benefit. It can help you establish a new business or grow an existing one. You can also use networking as a tool for finding investors, customers, staff, suppliers and business partners with minimal cost to your business.
In networking, you share your thoughts or talk about your offerings (promote) in a group of like-minded people. These people usually have something in common. For e.g. a networking group could be of people who are from the same industry or another could be based on a location. If the people in the group identify with your thoughts or like your offering, they can help you gain customers by talking to others about your business.
Even if you don’t have an established business yet or are going through the early process, networking is the best thing you can do for your business. Your goal should be to maximise your network.
Tips to use networking in your marketing strategy
Networking can be daunting, but here are some tips to get you started.
- Find mutual connections (referrals): While networking with small businesses, the most effective and easiest way is to grow your network through referrals. Request your existing connections to introduce you to new people. Don’t be shy! Being introduced through them or joining in with their conversations means that you will very likely receive a warm welcome.
- Don’t disregard networking events: Networking events are a great place to showcase your business, skills and grow your network. In fact, many networking events have a clear structure of how to induct new members to give them maximum benefit. This helps you to make the best out of the event without having to do everything yourself.
- Leverage social media: Social media is an effective way to get to know important contacts better, without the pressure of a face to face meeting. Here your online presence plays a key role in growing your network. Ensure that your online profiles or pages are updated and that you are active on social media. Your online presence helps in creating your persona and building trust. I also like to visit the Linkedin profile and social media before meeting someone in person. It helps me in preparing better and finding a mutual interest that can turn into an amazing conversation.
- Don’t ‘ask’ immediately, build a rapport first: As I said before, networking is not about getting sales. When you network you should never ask someone to give you business. Rather invest some time in building a rapport with that person. Nurture your relationship so that when a potential opportunity arises in the future, your contact will be willing to refer you.
- Listen, listen, listen and show that you’re listening: Listening is the best and most critical skill to build a strong relationship. People rarely like the kind of people who keep talking and don’t let others speak. At the same time, people love to be ‘heard’. If you have asked another person for advice or their opinion, make sure they have the opportunity to offer it and tell you. This goes a long way in building a relationship with your network. Pro tip: Ask their advice on a topic that excites them most and see the magic!
- Share your success story: You can sell even without being salesy! Just share events and success stories about how you have helped others with your business. Stories connect better with an audience and are more memorable.
- Never say a final ‘goodbye’: If a particular networking lead does not give you business immediately, don’t worry! Remember that an effective network is talking about you even when you’re not there. Maintain the relationship anyway, you never know when it may turn into an opportunity.
- Be thankful: Building a network is about creating a genuine, caring relationship. Be thankful to your network for the help or the information they have given and see if you can help them in any way. Never hesitate in sharing any knowledge you feel would be useful for them.
Networking effectively may take a little getting used to but don’t despair. Start with a group of people that you are really comfortable with and experiment with different tactics to see what works. Once you are confident, you can expand your network.