A to Z of Marketing: N = Networking

The A to Z of marketing is designed to give you a flavour of the multitude of components that need to be considered when marketing  a business.

This week we look at N = Networking.

According to Harvard Business School, Word of Mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing.  You can see why this is so – we all like to be recommended a company before we take the plunge.

I bet every single person who reads this blog has had a terrible experience with a company that they “took a punt on”.  One of the reasons why I can state that with confidence is that, as a country, we have an appalling attitude to customer service.

Excellent customer service is actually the exception in the UK – and when we experience an excellent job done we are more than happy to share our experience (especially if provided at good price).

Therefore, it makes sense, that as business owners we should have a strategy for utilising word of mouth marketing in our business.

Now “networking” is usually associated with the spread of positive word of mouth and can be a very useful marketing tool for any business but there are a few key elements to doing this properly – otherwise you will find that networking becomes an expensive waste of time (almost in a ninja-like way).

Here is my 5 point checklist to ensure that you are networking in a way that is going to benefit your business.

  • Ensure you have clarity over your proposition – can you convey the value you add to clients succinctly within seconds?  After all if people don’t get what you do – how can they refer you?
  • Are you networking in the right place?  There are a host of networking events – some specialised, some restricted by category, some a free for all.  Make sure you are mixing with the right people!  It only takes 1 visit to an event to assess the quality of people.  Avoid serial networkers – these are the energy sapping leaches that will put you off for life.  You know the ones – they cross you palm with a business card with seconds of meeting them!  You don’t need a fortune teller to tell the sort of person they are!
  • If you are networking via organised events, (which isn’t always necessarily the best way for you or your business), make sure you are happy with the event format.  Some are like speed dating, some are more social events, some are referral driven and focussed on generating business.  Work out what it is you want and also enjoy.
  • Are you trying to help/connect people?  That, after all, is what a network is.   Good people will always try and reciprocate.  You will get to a place where you can be very selective on whom you actually meet up with.  Assess who introduces you to the best people and build closer relationships with them, and people like them.  Keep in touch – don’t just become a business card (in a drawer).
  • Track what you are giving and getting, from which events and from whom.  Do more of what is working and ditch what isn’t.

If you fail to follow the above points – networking will not work for you.  All you will be doing is having lots of cups of coffee with people who are going to sap your time and energy.

You will find the whole process exhausting, time consuming and misleadingly expensive (when you take into account how many business hours you are devoting to it).

If you follow the above pointers, networking can be a really effective way of marketing your business.  Personally, networking (and in particular BNI), has been a critical element in my own marketing activity to both launch and establish my business (and still is).  Some people will tell you networking doesn’t work – that is rubbish.  They are just not doing it properly (and there are a lot of those people).

 

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Ian is the founder of Opportunity Marketing marketing, with over 18 years of experience in successfully setting up marketing departments, creating marketing strategies and implementing these strategies across a wide number of SME companies in both the B2B and B2C sectors through a variety of channels.