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23/08/2017

Should you be networking?

When it comes to your marketing, networking can be an incredibly useful tool in your arsenal – but you need to commit to get the most out of it. Here's our guide to the pros and cons of networking - and how to make it work for you.

Marketing with a personal touch

Each networking group follows a slightly different format, but there are common elements: you’ll meet co-networkers and exchange business cards and have a moment to discuss each other’s businesses.  You’ll also normally be able to give a short presentation of what your company offers, your target audience and your ideal customer.

There are, of course, many different, effective ways to target customers – such as promoting your brand through social media, PR or newsletters – but networking provides a more personal touch. You can really dig into what your business is all about and show off a range of products and services. It’s almost safe to say that each and every business should be networking, whether you’re selling a product like stationary or fashion accessories, or a service like cleaning or advertising.

Key benefits of networking

Through networking you can build business relationships that will expand your contact list: you’ll meet new potential customers, but also – crucially – referrers.  The real power of networking is not in who you meet within the room, but your ability to tap into their wider networks. 

You’ll also develop interpersonal skills, such as public speaking and relationship building, and you may also find trusted, reliable suppliers who can help you run your business more efficiently.

The pros and cons

Networking can be incredibly beneficial to your company if used in the right way, but there are things to keep in mind:

Pros

  • Opens your business up to new audiences and potential customers
  • Creates relationships or partnerships
  • Allows you to represent your brand in a detailed way
  • Develops your skills as a business person
  • You may also make new friends

Cons

  • Can be intimidating to new comers or if you’re not confident talking to strangers or speaking in public
  • More time consuming than other forms of marketing
  • Depending on which networking group you attend, there can be up-front costs
  • Different networking groups have different strengths and weaknesses; it’s worthwhile spending time to find the right best fit for your organisation.

Getting the most out of networking

A word of caution: networking is for farmers, not hunters.  If you go into a room with the intention of hoovering up contacts and selling aggressively to them, you are missing the real value.  To get the most out of networking, you should be looking to develop long-term relationships.  People need to get to know, like and trust you before they are willing to put their neck on the line by referring their biggest client to you.

For the same reason, they are also likely to want to test you out with a small referral or project – a low-risk way for you to prove yourself.  Only when you have delivered and proved your professionalism and skills are they likely to feel confident to pass more significant business your way; after all, every time they make a referral to you, you have the potential to damage their own brand reputation.  So, to get the most out of networking, you need to be prepared to invest in it for the long term, to establish your credibility with your new networks.

Sharp Minds has definitely benefited from networking over the years through new partnerships, clients and relationships. If you’re looking to promote your business on a more personal level, networking is definitely worth thinking about.

To find out more about how Sharp Minds Communications can help with your marketing, email communications@sharpminds.agency

 

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