Ten or fifteen years ago many in the business world were racing to get online. It was all dot.com this and e-commerce that. To have a vast website was the holy grail. All in the belief that it would, amongst other things, mean no more sales conventions, no more expensive glossy brochures or high salaried sales teams. All our clients and customers would come and find us online.
With over one thousand million websites offering a lot of choice there has been a resurgence of word of mouth marketing. What better than someone you know recommending or referring you to the perfect website for your needs or to someone needing your product or service. Even better if it supports others in your local business community.
So now you need trusted contacts to direct or refer potential clients or customers to you, who then recommend on creating momentum. Networking used to be this strange American concept, but now we all practice networking. On social media, at the school gate with other parents, at a book club, in the gym or on the golf course.
More formalised business networking groups was the next logical step, the next opportunity. Now there are many business networking groups, meetings and clubs. The good ones work because just like myself most people like to look key potential business contacts in the eye, have a conversation and get that first impression before taking time to connect further. The real power of networking is empowering others to go on and represent and refer your business away from the meeting. In the best examples it’s just like having an unpaid sales team.
In my opinion the worst networking groups are those where people just turn up and try to sell to you with no intention of listening to what you have to say. They judge success by the number of business cards they can hand out. At the other end of the spectrum are the grandiose ones that stroke egos.
So this is how a good networking group could work:
Mike has a company that engineers valves for gas fires. His firm has just lost a major contract to a Japanese company.
Sam has a printing company.
Faith runs a farm shop specialising in home made cheese, pies and soups made from local ingredients.
Lucy builds websites.
Mike, Lucy and Sam only know each other because they attend a networking group together. Sam knows Faith because he printed her brochures and knows she is keen to develop her business into restaurants. Whilst networking Sam gets to talk to the manager of the meeting venue who is keen to put local produce on the menu. They arrange a successful meeting with Faith who now has her first bulk customer. Faith calls Sam to thank him and mentions to him she is thinking of a website so customers can order to collect and he mentions Lucy. Lucy visits Faith at work to get some ideas for her website and notices her steamers are playing up, the valves leak. Apparently the steamers are old and the parts are discontinued. Faith is hoping her steamers will struggle on until she gets more profitable regular bulk orders in. Lucy mentions this to Mike and wonders if he can help. Six months later Mike has a thriving steamer valve contract.
The power of networking.
Jill Ashton is co owner of Ashton Associates.
Ashton Associates help and support people who want to gain more control of their finances and improve their lifestyle.
Tel: 0791 9107490