Building a Network of connections is a key part of your Business success. But to do this you need to be meeting face to face and building relationships, not just talking with people over the phone and online. So how to you do this more effectively - by Networking!
To explore this important topic, I recently interviewed marketing mentor Edward Zia on our Marketing Strategy Show podcast series. Edward runs more events, MCs more events and attends more events than anyone else I know. And as a Marketing Mentor he deals with hundreds of clients and teaches them about the power of networking and building a network. So this episode is well worth listening to.
We also scoured lots of other resources so we pull together some practical tips rather that the usually “smile and be nice” approach. The best we found was HubSpot’s Business Networking Crash Course. A great resource if you want to delve deeper in Networking
So here’s the best of our interview and research – 11 Practical Tips no how to get the best from your Networking efforts and start to build a great Business Network that you can help and in return they can help you.
1. Think three levels of Trust
Start with thinking about building a Network of connections. Once you’ve mastered this you think about what Networking you need to do to build this Network. The Hubspot Crash Couse talks about thinking of your network as having three levels of a "Trust" Pyramid.
You need to be create trust at the bottom, build trust at the middle and maintain and grow trust at the top of the pyramid to build an effective network.
Top of the Pyramid
At the top of the Trust Pyramid, you'll find your core networking connections. These are the people with whom you openly discuss your challenges, share information and regularly refer each other customers. This is the smallest group in your network because these relationships are the hardest to develop.
So how do you go about creating that trust at the bottom, building trust at the middle and maintaining and growing trust at the top of the pyramid to build an effective network?
Middle of the Pyramid
In the middle of the pyramid are your general connections. These are the people with whom you have a relationship and are working with to build greater trust. These relationships have the potential to be nurtured and transformed into a core connection. Although this isn’t classified in the top tier of the pyramid, general connections are valuable because you have a pre-existing relationship.
Bottom of the Pyramid
At the bottom of the trust pyramid you'll find the people you follow. This can include businesses that you are aware of, would potentially like to meet and you feel you can learn from and gain insights that would help your Business. This is the largest portion of the pyramid, because the networking process is challenging and there are a number of businesses you haven’t had the opportunity to connect with yet.
2. Be Strategic before you start
The only way that networking will work for you is if you strategise and set goals. The Hubspot Crash Course has some questions and useful framework to help you:
Why do you want to network? Are you looking to increase your customer base, learn about Facebook marketing or blogging from a fellow business owner, looking for a co-promotion... etc. Write down your top 3 goals of networking before you start.
Think about who you want to network with... is it people in your industry? Perhaps you're a baker and want to connect with other bakers to spark new ideas. Or perhaps you want to meet people who share your customer base, or people who need what it is your business offers
Once you've established why you want to network and who you want to network with, practice your "ask" until you have it down to a science.
You have options, both on and offline. Keep in mind though that the way you network with people should be tailored to the platform you are using.
Don't wait for networking to come to you, go out and get it.
3. Have the basics in place
Before you start, have the basics in place. Here’s five essentials to starta) Ensure your LinkedIn Profile is up to date, explains what you do and reflects your personality
b) Critically look at your website – is up to date, professional-looking and explains what you do
c) if you have a Facebook Business Page and other social profiles content is up to date or don’t promote them – especially on your website
d) Make sure your Business Cards reflect your Brand, are well-designed and printed on good quality stock
e) Document your sales and follow-up process for your networking and get a CRM set up to ensure you follow-up on new connections and keep in touch with your existing connections
4. Don't over-prepare
Over-preparing prior to a networking event is probably not the best was to get better at networking. By overthinking your business networking you will tend to make it bigger than what it is in your mind.
You now understand your trust pyramid, have clearly thought out your networking strategy and have the basics on place so it’s time to relax and have fun. After the networking is where the real work and network-building magic will happen.
Just go along, listen to people, make friends and you'll learn it that way. The best way of getting good at networking is simple - get networking!
5. Be clear about what you do
Don’t have a fancy elevator pitch that sounds, well quite frankly like an elevator pitch, that’s not authentic.
Be able to clearly and directly explain what you do so people get what you are about and what you do.
For example, mine might be “I run a Marketing Agency that provides integrated marketing focused on getting more clients – what about you”?
So be upfront when someone asks what you do. Some people will want to talk to you and some won't, the best thing you can do is be yourself so whoever you are talking with can quickly understand if this is a business relationship worth pursuing.
Let's say you go to a networking event and meet with 10 different people. Now it's a few days later and you are trying to decide who to follow up with, who do you call first?
Two of the people you talked to are interested in working further with you, two of them aren't really interested in all, two of them aren't really a good fit for you – either as part of your network or as a client and the other four aren't really interested or you don’t see them working with you/being part of your network in the immediate future.
From this it’s safe to assume that you should contact the two people who are interested in working with you rather than chasing up someone who isn't in the market for your solution.
So be focused on the people who are likely to want to work with you or be part of your Trust Pyramid.
7. Do the follow-up work
After you've met a person at an event that you want to focus on working with or building a relationship with, you need to follow-up.
Remember top #3 – have the basics in place?
This is where having a documented follow-up process will really help you save time, but more importantly do the work that builds a network, not just do networking.
That way you will guarantee that you aren't missing out on any business through not following up or forgetting to make that call or request that meeting.
8. Use a CRM
If you have a documented follow-up process in place, having good Market and Sales technology in place, like Hubspot CRM, will help you create, track and measure calls, email and documents you send to your referral network, clients and prospects. Plus help you ensure you schedule regular contact reminders so you know when you should be contacting people.
9. Continue to add value
This is where having educational content is really important. You need to be continually providing value to the people you want to work and build your network with so they are motivated to work with you. Educational content can come in various forms from:
- Short social posts
10. Don't just talk to friends
Many people fall into the trap of going to a networking event (not because they want to and they spend a majority of their time hanging around with work colleagues or the two or three people they know because they feel comfortable.
Don't do this! the point of a networking event is to make connections and talk to people you wouldn't normally get a chance to speak with.
If you spend a majority of the time talking with people you know, you aren't really getting the true value out of the event.
11. Measure afterwards
You need to be measuring the after effects of an event, so first and foremost you can be setting and reaching appropriate goals. You need to be setting goals otherwise what are you striving for? Things that you can measure include:
- How many people did you meet?
- How many meetings did you get?
- How many phone calls have you made since?
- How many people have you followed up with on LinkedIn?
You want to be booking at least one meeting per event that you attend otherwise the ratio of time you are spending there, compared to the value you are receiving, is well off-balance.
Make sure Networking is part of your Marketing Strategy. As mentioned in the introduction, you need to be following up with people who call you or people who visit your website, but you also need to go out and meet people who have no idea about who you are or what your business does.
This is why you need to include Networking as a part of your marketing, to ensure that you are going out and meeting these people and making these connections.
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