An enduring lesson from the growth of social media in the
past ten years is the reality that people rely more on recommendations from
trusted sources than they do from advertising.
Yet, most business owners focus their marketing efforts on traditional
promotion efforts targeted at a “cold market.”
Today I will begin a series of posts on how to create and
maintain a business networking campaign.
What I mean by that is an intentional and well thought out drive to
create as many of these ‘trusted sources’ as possible. As you will see, this is more than just
joining a BNI chapter or attending Chamber of Commerce mixers. The best aspect of running a successful
business networking campaign is that you will find the costs are usually a
fraction of traditional advertising.
What you save in dollars spent, you must replace with time
and effort. Simply saying you’ll
“network” does not guarantee success. First,
you need to plan a schedule of networking events and activities that will put
you in front of people. Write these into your calendar and give them the same
importance as a client meeting or sales presentation.
How much networking is enough? Obviously, it depends on the nature of your
business, but having two times on your calendar each week where you are in a
place to meet new people is a good target.
One of these might be a networking group that you belong to and the
other is a ‘meet and greet’ style event.
Second, recognize that a business networking campaign is a
process. It is not like running a
newspaper ad and having the phone ring the next day. Networking is a progression, it requires time
invested staying in touch with those you meet and developing a relationship
with them. It means earning their trust
before you can have them refer business to you.
This is why I encourage our clients to join a BNI or Rotary group as a
part of their networking campaign. Each
week you have the opportunity to interact with the other members and build the
credibility needed for a strong referral relationship.
Third, you’ll want to create an arsenal of credibility
enhancing materials. These should always
be available to help you make the most of every networking opportunity. Beginning in my next post I’ll give you a list
of 14 items that you will want to consider adding to your networking
Designing a business networking campaign can be as important
for your business as your advertising budget.
In fact, properly executed, a networking campaign can help you reduce
the hard costs associated with more traditional advertising methods.