As a Raleigh business networking group, we are committed to helping you grow your business through effective referral marketing. This article provides some time-tested advice to having success as a member of a business networking group. Business networking is a joining together of business people, including sole-proprietors, sales people, independent representatives, and owners of large businesses, who essentially become walking and talking advertisements for each other. Business networking groups follow the time-tested and proven adage that word-of-mouth advertising is the BEST form of advertising – often better than paid advertising.
10 Tips for Effective Business Networking
- Be Genuine. One of the most important aspects of effective business networking is being genuine. The foundation of business networking is relationships. The better quality of the relationships you build, the more leverage you get out of a business networking group. A key part of this is being genuine. Be yourself and don’t try to make yourself out to be someone you are not. For the most part, people refer YOU, not your products or services.
- Know what your goals are. Some business networking groups are more focused on volunteering in the community, educating its members, more than simply making contacts. It helps to know what your goals are before officially joining the group.
- Visit various groups. You want the group you join to be a good fit for you. Visit the groups more than once (many let you visit twice before joining). Get a feel for the tone of the group. Get to know their rules and think about whether or not you can realistically follow them. Are the members supportive of each other?
- Volunteer for positions in the group. This is a great way to stay visible in the group and display your leadership skills. As with most aspects of life, the more you put into your networking group, the more you will get out of it.
- Ask questions. Just about every business networking group schedules someone to give a presentation to the group. After the presentation, ask questions. This shows that you are an active participant in the group and that you are interested in the business that your fellow member has chosen for a profession. It is important to them, so make it important to you.
- Show up regularly. Showing up regularly is a reflection of your character and integrity. It shows your fellow members that you are someone they can depend on to make them look good when they refer someone to you. Additionally, it helps you get more leads. It is not uncommon for someone to miss out on a lead simply because that person did not show up to the meeting. It really helps to be present to the meeting in order for someone to give a lead to you and give you a little background about the lead! Obviously, “life happens” occasionally that restricts your attendance at times and that is expected, however, let fellow members know in advance of expected absence.
- Become known as a resource. Do one-on-ones with your fellow members to get to know them, their business, and how you can help them. The best business networkers know their fellow members and clients well – not only the part that relates to their business. The best networkers often know the ins and outs of their fellow member’s and client’s business, including the challenges they are experiencing. They then can say, “I know someone who can help you with that. Here is her name and number…” Soon, people will know you as a resource and will turn to you for advice, ideas, and suggestions.
- Know your business. Be able to describe your business clearly, succinctly, and persuasively. When people ask what you do, be able to give a 30 second commercial in a way that sets you apart from the others in your business. Be able to talk about your business clearly so that the person you are talking to can easily relay that to other people. Follow through. When a member passes a referral to you, contact that referral quickly. More often than not, members giving you the referral will contact the referral, letting the referral know that you will be contacting that person. The members will typically ask the referral if you contacted them yet the next time they communicate. If you haven’t, you may not get many referral in the future. Follow through quickly and your referral base will grow.
- Be a member – not a taker. Talk to everyone. Get to know them and not just their business. Look them in the eye when you talking to them – show that you are genuinely interested in what they are saying. Find out how you can help THEM. Be a member in such a way that other members would WANT to refer people to you. Remember, members refer people to you, NOT your business.