I was due to attend a speed networking event organised by the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce this week and prior to the event, CEO, Sinead McLaughlin shared some tips on networking, which I thought would be relevant to share for photographers (especially with WPPI coming up!).
Some ideas, thoughts and observations
Business networking is not about selling, it is for building relationships so that companies and independent traders can help each other reach broader markets. In these times of economic difficulty, business networking is more important than ever. Consumers are becoming much more selective in what they buy and how they prioritise their available expenditure.
Effective networking means that one business can recommend another to its customers. Here are a number of helpful suggestions that specifically relate to how small businesses need to operate in order to survive and thrive.
1. Building up a network of diverse people is very helpful for any business. Networking would help you to expand your contact list. This could help you to expand your sales base. However busy you are you should give importance to networking. It is important to create a lasting first impression on people whom you meet. The impression you create will bring you greater business opportunities. You should always try to keep in touch will the contacts you have developed. You should help people in your network. This would not only bring you goodwill but also business. If a person has a product to sell, giving him the contact number of a person who needs the product it will help you in the long run. You should identify ways and means to improve your networking. You should view networking and relationship building as a continuous process. Networking aids the growth of your business and expands your horizons. It would aid you in creating new products and expanding your knowledge. If you are a professional you should seek new ideas and pastures that would help you to grow. If you are attending a networking meeting, be well prepared. Think in advance as to what kind of people you are going to interact with. When you meet people, you find out what their requirements are and whether you can fulfill them.
2. Business networking is not about a closed shop where everyone gives each other work; it’s much more powerful than that. It’s fundamentally about the act of referring business to people that you have grown to know, like and trust, and for them to do the same for you. Understanding how to give a quality referral is an art itself. It is not a well known fact but 70% of new business that your company gets is through word of mouth. Networking allows you to formally explain what your business is about and as fellow networking business people get to know you so you will naturally start to win new sales leads because people like to pass business to people that they know. Simply attending a networking event will raise your profile especially if you network on a regular basis. The Chamber offers you many networking platforms so that you might regularly profile your business. Not only do you have the opportunity to present your business, you also get to meet with a lot of business people from other walks of life that will inevitably be able to help solve some of your problems.
3. Another important aspect of Network Building is about sharing experiences. Just talking to people about their experiences, their goals and their problems will stimulate lots of new ideas and open your mind to new opportunities. All of a sudden you have a completely new approach to doing something or even a new business venture that you may never have otherwise thought of. It’s amazing how much satisfaction we all get from helping others. There are many business networking techniques to learn in order to make the most of this style of marketing but once you’ve understood the basics, give it a little time and I’m sure that you’ll soon understand the true power and benefits of networking. Generation of referrals /increased business Fact – 70% on average of all new business is gained through word of mouth and positive recommendation. As you develop your contacts and build up positive relationships with people you will find that you will naturally gain business and sales leads as people recommend your services.
4. Network building drives increased confidence. The more you network the more you get used to explaining what you do and how you can help others. Clear communication of how you can help is crucial to winning business and this will only improve the more you do. Have you ever thought just how good it feels when you have helped someone whether it is by saving them time and effort by providing them with a useful contact, passing someone a referral or directly giving someone a piece of useful advice? The benefits of business networking just keep on coming! How to use business networking to your advantage? Business networking is more than just a clever tactic that most businesses use to draw in more clientele. For many small businesses that rely upon word of mouth, proper networking skills are completely necessary for the continued success and even existence of the company. Business networking is the fundamental act of referring business to other businesses, and in the process doing the same for you. Understanding how to give quality referrals is an art form in itself, and something that is extremely important in business networking matters. The old adage of, “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine”, has never applied to anything more than to business networking.
5. Building a business network takes many forms, and you just might not realize how common it is. Whether a business is cold calling some of its clients on the phone, or meeting other business professionals for dinner or lunch, the networking is always taking place. Successful networking leads to referral business, new business ideas, and can help you to learn from other professionals in your field. Many businesses choose to become part of networking organizations such as being an active member of the Chamber. These organizations are excellent ways for business owners to participate in business advocacy and lobbying efforts, and offer a way for business owners to cooperate for their own protection. They often have meet and greet sessions where business leaders can meet together to discuss certain business topics that might be affecting them, the current business climate in their area, and formulate collective plans for the future. Some say that up to 70 % of new companies get their business through word of mouth. Networking allows you the opportunity to formally introduce yourself and your business, to other business professionals in your area, to not only get to know them, but to get to know the services they offer as well. If business leaders can meet you and can trust you, they will have no problem sending business your way, and no problem receiving some from you. This is all part of the relationship building process that is so vital to successful business networking. It is a relationship built on trust and mutual interest. In today’s high tech world, business networking has never been so easy and available. No longer do you need to live in the same area to network with business clients, or even in the same country. Due to popular online networking services, you can network with anybody all over the world.