Benefits of networking for businesses (part 2)

Networking for small business

In my previous article, I shared some of my thoughts on the power of word of mouth marketing and personal referrals for businesses. As I’ve said, I’m not an expert in business networking, but I’ve experienced what it’s done for my business and I’ve witnessed how it’s benefited other businesses too. If anything, I hope that this series of article swill shed light on some of those experiences to give you something to think about in terms of whether it can benefit your business as well.

Small business is unique

Big brand businesses allocate a lot of resources into their marketing and public relations to ensure that you (the consumer) is aware of their brand. For big brands, brand awareness means being front of mind all the time. You’ll see them on television, on the radio, in newspapers and magazines, on billboards and of course, over the internet. They’ll be sponsoring sporting teams, community activities, and major events. Big brands are everywhere and in every aspect of our lives.

If you’re a small business, then (like me) you probably wouldn’t have the resources to maintain the same level of marketing as big brand businesses. So what can you do as a small business? Even without exploring any other part of your business, I already know you’ve got something that the big brands. You’ve got something that’s unique to your business and it’s something that will give you an edge over those larger competitors. That something unique is YOU!

Business networking requires you

We’ve all got social networks of some sort or other. These various networks exist through family or friends at all different levels and through different forms of association. You might know people from school, from university, through work, through church, over the internet, or even through whatever your normal daily activity might be (ie, your local postman, the checkout girl at the supermarket, your favourite barista etc). Regardless of the network that you may belong to or how it came into existence, the next question is whether that network adds value into your business.

Sometimes some networks are totally distinct and separate from business and sometimes other networks are fully integrated into business. Understanding the dynamics of each network will allow you to navigate them successfully, and more importantly, appropriately. Have you even been invited by a ‘friend’ to a multilevel marketing seminar? I’m sure they probably told you that it was about something other than multilevel marketing and they never asked whether you’re actually interested (assuming correctly that you’re not)? You’ll know what I mean, it’s not just what you do, but how you do it – especially if you value and want to maintain the relationships with those people in your networks.

Formal Business Networking

Aside from the various social networks that we all belong to, there are other networking groups that are focused purely on business networking, or networking for business. When joining this kind of group, there’s no question or uncertainty about what the main goal is – it’s all about business.

You’ll find that there are many different networking groups for businesses and they all go about their networking in different ways. Some groups are very structured while others might be more casual. Some meet weekly while other meet less frequently. Some meet in specific venues while others may meet online only. At the end of the day, you should find a business networking group that suits you and meets your needs because that’s where you’ll be at your best and be able to do your best.

I started formal business networking several years ago, and my first experience was a real eye-opener. I had been invited by a business associate and didn’t know what to expect. While the returns were not immediate, with commitment and dedication I found the rewards to be much more than just the immediate network.

Up next…

In the next part in this series of articles, I will be sharing some of what my team of lawyers and I have done in terms of formal business networking and what it has meant for us.

Cybersquatting!

We were recently asked to address a question involving cybersquatting. Cybersquatting is a controversial practice where an individual or a business registers an internet domain name (the website address) that someone else may have an interest in. The “cybersquatter” then often refuses to do anything… until they have been paid, of course.

This sort of behaviour often arises from the “first come first serve” nature of the domain name registration system, as well as the relative ease and low cost of registering a domain name. Cybersquatters often register a large number of domain names that other people may have an interest in, and then auction them off or sell them for a higher price than the price of the registration.

Over the last decade or so there have been a number of high profile cases where this sort of behaviour took place. In the 2000s, websites such as “madonna.com” and “singaporeairlines.com” were occupied by alleged cybersquatters. In 2004, the rapper Eminem won a case against a cybersquatter. There were disputes over “juliaroberts.com” and “jimihendrix.com”.

This practice still continues. As a small business, you might have encountered such practices in the past, or you may be a target of cybersquatters. If something like this does happen to you, you can take some action through the WIPO’s Uniform Domain Name Resolution Policy or, if the domain name ends with “.au”, the .au Dispute Resolution Policy.

An example of a complaint would be one where you have registered a business or a trade mark within Australia, and the “cybersquatter” registered the domain name, in bad faith, some time after you registered your business or your trade mark, and has no intention of using it in any way.

The UDRP or the .auDRP have some remedies, such as cancelling or transferring the domain name registration. Unfortunately the process requires putting together sufficient evidence to support your case, does take some time, and may not be cost effective – you also are unlikely to recover legal costs spent to pursue this.

In the alternative, complainants may lodge a complaint saying that the person who registered the domain name is not eligible to register that name – however this would likely result only in the revocation or cancellation of the registration.

Because the internet is such an important aspect of small business these days, it is very important to plan ahead for these things. Before starting up, you should check out if the domain name related to your brand or your company is taken. Even if you have no intention of putting up a website immediately, you should take steps to preemptively block out or register domain names related to you or your business. For a small cost, this will likely save you the hassle of going through the lengthy dispute resolution process that you would have to go through if you didn’t do these from the beginning.