As a business owner, although we work off a financial year calendar for most things, we choose the start off the year to map out our goals and foot steps we are going to take for the year ahead. For some this may include marketing plans, customer relationship goals, expanding ideas or simply, ways to be better than last year.
When asked the question to business owners, what marketing strategies and plans do you put in place? the common answers are generally, where we are going to advertise, who we are going to target, what is the message we are going to promote, what is our business really about.
Although these things are great and important, very rarely do business’s think about their business networking strategies and how this should be incorporated into your business marketing plan. Whether you revise and plan your marketing yearly, monthly or even quarterly, be sure to include your vision and plan around how your going to build better connections for your business growth. Networking will be your number one best asset to achieve this.
Ok, let’s be honest, not everyone likes networking. It can be nerve wracking to get out their and put yourself in the spotlight. But let’s face it, if you cant confidently promote you and your business, what confidence will your potential customer have in your product or service?
Below i’m going to share my tips around planning your networking journey. Feel free to include these when planning for the year ahead. You might also like my free networking planner that i will attach below for you. My 2020 gift to you.
- Think of networking as advertising, only it’s more about your personal brand rather than just your business. Remember, people buy people. They will trust you if they know you, like you and feel a connection on some level.
- Make Networking a part of running your business. Plan the events you want to attend and carve out the time in your calendar just like you would a client meeting.
- Don’t be afraid to spend the money on networking if its the right fit for you and your business. Spending money on networking can be more effective than spending it on advertising. It’s more personal and targeted. Consider these costs in your budget.
- Research and gain feedback from the networking events and opportunities that are available. There are many kinds, both regular occurring or one off events that you can benefit from. You can read a common list of different events you may find here. Remember not all will suit you, it’s important to understand that the more you feel comfortable the more success and excitement you will feel when attending.
- Expectations – know what you want to achieve and the kinds of people you want to network with and why, and think about what you have to offer. This helps to prioritize events to attend, making your networking more effective.
- Just because its business, does not mean you cant be yourself. Networking is not really about you, it’s about them, so keep in mind that making sales or gaining clients will not be instant. Networking is about building relationships.
- Networking events do not always have to be about making sales and building client data bases. If your purpose for attending some events is simply to just feel supported and gain feedback and guidance around running your business, this is OK. Networking has many benefits, particularly if your a sole employer or have minimal staff. Which means having a support network or tribe around you who are on the same journey can make the stressful times easier. If this is what you want out of your networking journey, be sure to include this in your plan.
- Don’t be afraid to network with your competitors. Find out where they are and what they are attending and make some connections. Often you will gain more support from the people who know what your up against. Working together can be beneficial for both parties when the opportunity arises.
- Don’t forget that networking also extends to social media, including Linkd In and Facebook. Face to face introductions are always the best but in the days of social media it’s important to look at all our opportunities that are available to us including social media groups that may offer support.
- Review and follow up strategies need to be included in your plan. How are you going to collect information, stay in contact and continue the relationship? Consider a CRM system or manual system to keep on track of where you have been and what you have achieved at each event.
OK, i could go on but these are the most important things to think about to get you started. It’s not rocket science, it’s just thinking a little differently, making the cogs move in a new way to change the outcome.
So, here is the challenge. As we start to approach the final weeks of the first month of a new year, let’s start today. Plan your networking journey, use the planner attached here if you want to or just write it down in one of those old things they use to call notebooks. It doesn’t have to be perfect you just have to start.
Networking will be the most cost effective marketing strategy you will adopt for your business. Find the right ones, step outside of your comfort zone and you will be well on your way to building those better business connections.
See you all next month
Renee – getting the cogs moving to make you matter.