These days, marketing is really important for any business. Without marketing, your potential customers are unlikely to know about you and your business will not grow. Typically, due to the limited availability of funds, small businesses struggle with paid marketing or promotional activities. In that case, networking can be an effective marketing strategy to grow your business.
Networking is the strategy to engage with other professionals so as to further your business.
In networking, you interact with other businesses and partner with them for mutual benefit. Networking is also effective in helping you to find investors, staff and business partners.
In networking, share your thoughts or talk about your offerings in a group of like-minded people. These people usually have something in common. For e.g. a networking group might be of individuals who are from an equivalent industry or another might be from a specific location. If the people within the group identify together with your thoughts or like your offering, they will help you to gain customers by telling others about your business. Your goal should be to grow your network.
How to use networking in your marketing strategy?
Networking is often daunting, but here are some tips that will help you get over the fear and start the process:
Find mutual connections (referrals): While networking with small businesses, the most effective and easiest way is to grow your network through your existing connections. Request them to introduce you to new people in their circle. Being introduced through a referral or joining in with their conversations means that you will be accepted in the new circle.
Don’t be overwhelmed by networking events: Networking events are an excellent place to showcase your business, skills and grow your network. In fact, many networking events have a transparent structure of how they induct new members to offer them maximum benefit. This helps you make the most out of the event without having to try to do everything yourself.
Use social media: Social media is a good medium to get to connect with important contacts better, without the pressure of a face to face meeting. Ensure that your online profiles or pages are updated as per the guidelines of the platform and that you are active on social media. Your social media presence helps in creating your persona and building trust with new people.
Build a rapport before asking: As I said before, networking is not about getting sales. When you network you must never ask someone to become a customer of your business. Rather invest a while in building a rapport with this person. Keep in touch with your connections so that when a potential opportunity arises in the future, your contact will be willing to refer you.
Listen and show that you’re listening: Listening is easily the best and most crucial skill to create a robust relationship. People rarely want to engage with people that keep talking and don’t let others speak. At any time, people like to be ‘heard’. If you asked another person for advice or their opinion, make certain they get the chance to give it and tell you. This goes a very long way in building a relationship together with your network.
Tell your success story: You'll sell even without being salesy! Just share events and success stories about how you helped others through your business. Real-life stories connect better with an audience and are more memorable.
Don't give up on someone: If a particular networking lead does not give you business immediately, don't worry! Remember that an effective network is talking about your business even when you’re not there in the room. Maintain the relationship with your connections anyway, you never know when it may turn into an opportunity.
Be grateful: Building a network is about creating a real, caring relationship. Be thankful to your connections for the help or the information they have given. See if you can help them in any way as well. Never hesitate in sharing any knowledge you think would be useful for them.
Networking effectively may take a little getting used to but don’t give up. Start networking with a group of people that you are really comfortable with. Then experiment with different tactics to see what works. Once you're confident, you'll be able to continuously expand your network.