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.

Benefits of networking for businesses (part 1)

Preface

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t regard myself as an expert in networking, so don’t take this as advice or recommendations in any form. In this 4-part article on networking for businesses I’ll be sharing some of my personal thoughts and experiences on the topic of business networking. It’s been beneficial to my business, obviously limited by my own abilities and availability, but at least I hope it will give you food for thought when considering how it can benefit you in your business as well.

Word of mouth Marketing

Regardless of how much money a business might spend in marketing and advertising, one of the best sources of business is through personal referrals, or word of mouth marketing. Word of mouth marketing is as old as history itself, but its effectiveness is not lost even today in its modern interpretation, namely social media.

The power of testimony – “I’ll have what she’s having”

Do you know the scene from When Harry Met Sally? After Sally shows her ‘enthusiasm’ in the restaurant, another diner across from her chooses to order the same dish with the words “I’ll have what she’s having”. But why would she say that and what does it mean?

Aside from having experienced a product or service yourself, the next best thing would be to receive someone’s personal testimony or recommendation, even more so when it comes from someone that you trust. Isn’t it natural to think if someone has had a good experience with that product or service, then you might as well? The recommendation might be from a family member, a friend, or someone who is or is perceived to be trustworthy or credible (ie, do you feel more compelled to listen to someone who wears glasses and a white coat?) but on receiving that recommendation, I’m sure you would be more likely to buy that product or service yourself, right?

Likewise, if someone you knew or trusted made a complaint or raised concerns with a certain product or service, would you be more likely to avoid it? I think you would. But let’s assume for the moment that you’ve got a good product or service, how do you get the message out so that you can get the recommendations or testimonials that push business your way?

Viral marketing – indirectly marketing to the masses

Marketers are always trying to come up with different strategies to spark word of mouth marketing, and this often brings to mind viral emails or viral Youtube videos. When it works, it spreads like wildfire and with the internet, it’s easy to see the number of hits or interest shown as it can quickly soar into the millions and continue to grow exponentially.

Sure – large scale viral marketing is great for mass exposure. It’s like standing on a box in the middle of the street with a megaphone and shouting at the crowd, however it still doesn’t beat the power of face to face networking, especially when it comes to building a relationship or connection with your consumers rather than just drawing attention to yourself. Without a relationship or connection, drawing attention to yourself is just that – it’s there for a moment and gone the next. Retaining public attention requires more commitment and with commitment comes a relationship.

The reality is that we all prefer to do business with businesses/people that we know or are familiar with – and even more with those that we have a relationship with or even like . Big brands rely heavily on this and that’s why we’re constantly bombarded with their branding in every aspect of our lives. They become part of us and so we trust them (to varying degrees). But what if you’re not a big brand?

Stay tuned… there’s more coming

In the second part of this article, I’ll be discussing the benefits of small business when it comes to business networking and some of the options available to you if you’re in small business when it comes to networking for business.