I have been attending business networking events for many years and I’m a total believer in the value of building long lasting relationships with other business owners.
Truth be told, it lonely out there and i think it is essential to have a network of fellow employers and business people to bounce ideas of, both in the good times and the bad.
However, business networking is not cheap. It requires a significant time investment.
Here are five hard earned pieces of advice to help you turn networking into business success.
1 Give don’t take – but give carefully
The magic words in networking are “how can I help?”. It is so much more comfortable helping others than trying to sell to them and the immutable law of reciprocity ensures that what you give you get back.
Volunteer for roles within your group, greet visitors and introduce members to your business contacts. But please protect your valuable time and under no circumstances give away your expertise just to make yourself feel important.
2 Build strategic alliances
It is so much better to ask to be introduced to contacts who can keep in regular work than clients who will only use you once. Wedding photographers ask for wedding venues, electricians ask for letting agents, accountants ask for trade associations. A few of these clients will feed your business for years.
3 Treasure your leads
Everybody burns leads. We forget to call; we lose the phone number; we are a bit busy. It is only human not to follow up leads. It is inexcusable in networking. Not only are we missing an opportunity but we are embarrassing the referring member.
Seriously consider investing in a simple CRM system, preferably with a phone app business card scanner. I use AmoCRM which costs me less than £20 per month and means I will never burn a lead again.
4. Make it easy for members to refer you
It only takes a minute on LinkedIn to find the right person to ask for at a networking meeting. If you add a story which illustrates why the prospect will be delighted to speak to you it is so much easier for members to refer you and saves your valuable time dealing with unqualified referrals.
“I would like to speak to Steve Davis at ABC Company because I have helped CDE Company with their GDPR are compliance so I can help Steve shortcut the process and save money”
5. Use a mini brochure
Print is so cheap nowadays that almost everyone can afford to hand out a pocket sized brochure. Our has more than doubled our return on investment on business networking and only took about a day to produce.
We have developed a quick calculator to help you measure the cost benefit of business networking.
You can try it here