Networking is a bit like being a spider on your spiderweb. Each strand extends and connects to a different person, and from those people, other, albeit feinter strands extend to more people.
The more people you have in your network, the better your chances of getting a referral to your product or service.
Business referral networking is also synonymous with Word-of-Mouth or WOM advertising, and this has probably been the best form of advertising and marketing since people started bartering. Considering that bartering probably started around 6000BC in Mesopotamia, it’s been around for a very long time, and is never going to go away. The conversation back then probably went something like this.
“Do you know anyone trading clay tablets? I have a donkey.”
“Sure, go see that dude Lugal down by the Euphrates. He’s got the latest models. I got this one from him after my last got a virus and cracked. Even comes with this really cool carving tool.”
The Benefits of a Network
As you have no doubt gathered, there are many ways to get clients. You can use social media marketing, paid advertising, influencer marketing, SEO, SMM, CRO, etc. etc. etc. there really are a lot of ways to market.
All of these methods have something in common. You create brand awareness, get the attention of your audience, continue to market to them (someone has to see your brand, product or service five to seven times before they will start to engage), then they may start to become curious, will check out your product or service. Through social media you may create social confidence and so they start to trust you more. Now they have started to really enter the sales funnel. Stuff about 1000 people in there and you may eventually get 10 final sales. Quite a process isn’t it.
Now consider networking. You educate someone on what you do. That person already trusts you because they know you personally, or they have already bought your product or service and know how good it is. They also know that your service is good and you really do look after your customers. When they tell someone looking for your product or service about you, there is an entire portion of the prior marketing strategy that has been removed, because the trust factor is already present.
It takes time for people to trust another person, or a product or a service. If the trust is already present, then you are more than halfway to the finish line.
Friends and Family
The first place to begin is with your own friends and family members. Hopefully, because of your relationship with them (they are friends after all), they trust you.
Apart from the fact that friends and family might want to purchase your product or service, they may know other people who also do. Ask them to get the word out there. Ask them to tell their friends and work colleagues about your business. Get them to hand out business cards. Do whatever you can to get more and more people educated about your business and get the word out there.
Something you may want to consider is getting a newsletter mailing list together. When your friends and family tell others about your business, get them to direct those people to your website to sign up for the newsletter so that you can educate them further, build more trust and turn them into paying customers.
Past clients and customers are a golf mine. These are people that have tried your product or service, and so they have first hand experience as to how good it is and how good your service delivery is. Of course, if it isn’t, then you first need to work on that.
Past clients can be advocates for your business. You can set up a refer a friend structure on your website and then contact all of your old clients and tell them about it. Maybe add an incentive like 10% off their next purchase if they refer a friend who makes a purchase.
The thing with clients is that, as I mentioned above, they have first hand experience with your product or service, so when they talk to people the trust is already there and they can tell them how wonderful it is.
It’s all about trust, if you can remove that chunk of the marketing process then you can attain customers and clients a lot quicker.
Using social media to build your network is probably the most difficult method, but it can glean some great results. People on social media tend to be very loyal. However, you need to build trust which can take a long time, as I mentioned previously.
One thing that most people do when approaching social media marketing is to get onto as many channels as they can and attempt to use all of them to build their audience as quickly as possible. Although not a bad thing, it does tend to spread your efforts too thinly.
A better approach would be to focus on one or two platforms and focus all of your effort on them, master them, and then add another one. This allows you to build an audience that is loyal to you and your brand.
A better platform than social media itself is email marketing. If you can build an audience through a newsletter signup, one that is just as loyal to you as your social media audience, then you have more attention.
Just like social media you can send messages out to your audience, letting them what you are up to, specials you may be running, or just reminders of your products and services, but whereas when you post on social media only a very small percentage see your posts (2% to 3% in fact), a much larger percentage of people on your email list will see the mail (around 80%).
Similar to an email list is also subscribers you can gather through push notifications or the Facebook Chatbot, so you may also want to look into those.
Formal Networking Group
Join a networking group like Net-Working-Pro is extremely beneficial. Within such a group you will join a small network of other business owners who all get to know each other and build relationships. It is through building these relationships that people get to understand you and your business, get to know your products and services, and get to build trust. Even if they don’t try your products or services themselves, they get to hear about them and your service delivery from others within the group who have, and through trust they come to know how reliable you are, and can then go and tell others outside the group. This is what a qualified referral is all about. Building relationships and gaining trust amongst your peers.
Bear in mind that these relationships don’t just happen overnight. It does take time to build such trust as people need to get to know you first. But once that bond has been formed, you will have a group of people who will advocate for you, and who will remain loyal to you.
Another aspect of a networking group that is very helpful is the support. Being a small business owner can be very lonely. You can talk to your friends and family about it, but most times they just won’t get it. To be part of a group of people who are also small business owners means you are amongst people who understand, and they will support each other.
To put it into a nutshell, networking is about connecting with other people, building a trusting relationship and getting them to go out and tell others about you, your business, your brand and your products and services. These people within your network (or your spiderweb) will be loyal to you and will help you to get more clients, and in less time than it would take you to market to complete strangers.
Start building your network today and reap the benefits for years to come.
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