In my previous article I spoke about networking online. I wanted to expand on how you can use networking groups/meetings to grow your business when you’ve just started out.
When launching a business, it’s essential that you get your profile and that of your company out into the ether, so that potential customers know about you and can purchase what you offer. Now, more than ever, you will need to exist online to achieve this; attending networking meetings on a regular basis is a good way to get your message out even further and build fruitful relationships.
The general consensus is that people buy from people. Networking allows you to show prospects much more than just your business name and/or products. You will be demonstrating to your audience your personality, individualism and commitment to your business. They will get to see the face of your business, and that’s when you start to build trust. From your network of introducers and customers, you will naturally receive recommendations, which should continue to build. As long as you’re good at what you do and you treat your customers with respect and integrity, you can’t go wrong.
When speaking to people at networking meetings you have an opportunity to explain exactly what it is that you do. Some businesses are quite complicated when it comes to how they help and assist others (I remember the lending applications I used to process, where applicants had to explain in their summary what they did in their business…this was always easier to explain when you sought clarity directly from the client, rather than just reading this on a website). If people understand what you do, they can then work out how they can help you. Networking is not just about selling, however. No one should attend a networking session expecting to sell there and then. Networking relies on relationships being built over time.
Collaborations can occur; for instance, you may find someone in your network has a similar target market and there may be opportunities to work together—perhaps by offering a complimentary product/service, or the creation of a joint package that will benefit both your client bases. At one of the networking events I attend there are three businesses that work in conjunction with each other; they offer clients a total package that includes photography, a website and blogs. It helps the client to shop with this team rather than them going to the trouble of sourcing the same three services separately. There are usually financial benefits that come with such a collaboration, too—both for clients and the businesses in question.
The other advantage that comes from regular networking is that you may need the services of one of the other businesses in attendance. For example, your new business may need business cards or a website—by working in conjunction with people in your network, you’re more likely to receive referrals back to you. BNI is a good example of this.
So, even if networking seems daunting, give it a try. You never know who you might meet and who the people in the group may know…
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