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As a locally focused business I have tried all types of networking. There is no doubt that this way of marketing works, however there are several important principles to adhere to. Here’s my simple guide from personal experience to using networking to grow your business.
NOTICE: The Kingdom Business Forum in Kirkcaldy have made a great contribution to my success in the last 18 months. We are having a visitors day next Wednesday 28th August and if you can make it I’d highly recommend coming along. There’s no charge and as an added bonus you’ll get a full Scottish breakfast and hopefully have a bit of fun. I’d be delighted to introduce you so drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like more information.
Networking only works when people know, like, and trust you, and this does not happen in a couple of weeks. Remember that if someone recommends you they are putting their reputation on the line.
If you don’t deliver it’s not just your reputation gets damaged but also the person recommending you. So naturally it will take time and ideally experience for any networking to start delivering actual results. In my experience you need to be attending a group on a regular basis for about 4 to 6 months before networking starts to deliver real value. That said once you are a proven and trusted member of the group third party recommendations will come your way on a regular basis.
As someone who runs their own business I always find it fascinating to talk to my peers about what they do and their successes and difficulties in their own business areas. The reality is that most of us have the same problems, and if you were to ask most of the business people they would fall into two categories; 1) generating new business, 2) finding good quality people to help them deliver. Local networking will help in both of these areas as the more people you get to know in your area the larger your reach will become when you need some help with something you can’t deliver yourself. The same will apply to the people that your networking with and you will find that within your group members will turn to you for advice in your area of expertise.
You need to get involved s volunteer for something. Every networking group requires a committee so after a few months of attending consider taking up a post on the committee. It might be something simple like organising a few minutes training each week or if you’re good with numbers it could be a treasurer’s role. Whatever you choose you will become more involved, and showing a strong commitment to the group will reap rewards in the long-term.
Most networking groups have a short few minutes or a longer slot during each meeting when members get the opportunity to benefit from the experience of another group member. If you have skills and knowledge that will help other members of your networking group then volunteer to do training sessions as it will help build your reputation as an expert in your business area.
Reciprocity is one of the most powerful sales tools in existence. If you’re prepared to help other people where there is no obvious commercial gain you’ll find that as opportunities arise you will be the person recommended over others in your locality.
The whole point of networking is to find people that you trust and respect so when an opportunity arises for their skills you can recommend their services. The more you recommend other people’s services the more your services will become recommended. It’s a simple formula but it works.
It’s important people remember what you do or they won’t be able to recommend you. Tell stories that are relevant to your audience. Talk about clients that have similar requirements and how you’ve helped them earn money. Keep your pitch simple. Try to be interesting and engaging and use analogies that other members can relate to.
I’d like to thank everyone at the Kingdom Business Forum, The Fife Chamber of Commerce, the Business50 Club, the Aberdour Business Club, and the local Federation of Small Business, for their warm welcomes and support in making by business the success it is today. In 2010 I moved to Fife from Hampshire to be closer to my children and without your support life would have been far less enjoyable.
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