Business Buzz for Birmingham & Warwickshire
Love it or loathe it, our world is driven by consumerism. We’re bombarded with the message that we need more: a faster car, a bigger house, a higher wage. While freedom of choice has its benefits, let’s not forget that less of something can actually give us more.
When it comes to networking, this is most definitely the case. Less networking, done really well, is so much more beneficial than lots of networking, where you have not allowed enough time & commitment to make it successful. In the virtual world it is so easy to become a networking butterfly & we all know how short their lives are. By having a focused approach; the life span & rewards from little networking done with design has so much more return.
Networking: What It Is & What It Isn’t
By definition: ‘Networking is about building reciprocal relationships with people you like, admire & trust.’ If you think about your most valuable business relationships, are they based on those attributes? It’s no secret that people buy from people, & liking, admiring & trusting those we work with makes our working life far more pleasant, productive & profitable. Efficient networking allows you & your clients to conduct business based on a relationship that ticks all of those boxes.
So, what is networking not? Networking does not mean attending numerous events to simply get your face randomly in front of people. If you’re not taking the time to get to know the people you meet, they won’t know you either. Making a sales pitch without knowing who you’re trying to sell to is not networking in any sense of the word. Nor is believing that networking is all about the pitch. Collecting business cards, connections on LinkedIn, followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook are not metrics that point towards useful, successful networking. Great networking is so much more than just collecting people’s contacts.
It’s so easy to say what make a good or a bad networker. The truth is that we all bring different skills to the table or room, but there will be nay-sayers who tell you that networking does not work (or rather it doesn’t work for them). This is most likely because they have not found the right style that best represents themselves.
So now we know what good networking is, & what it definitely isn’t, let’s look at how to put good networking in to practice.
Make it Count
Connection is at the core of networking, & with the best will in the world it can’t be rushed. It takes time & patience to make valuable connections & that’s why it pays off to commit to making the networking you take part in meaningful, rather than spreading yourself too thinly & failing to make the connections that will benefit your business. Despite what LinkedIn may lead us to believe, with constant reminders that several people are waiting to connect, having hundreds or thousands of LinkedIn connections is not the measure of good networking. Understanding how to navigate networking is complex, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, & nor should your professional network be.
Be Strategic In 3 Steps
Sharpening your networking strategy will mean you have time to dedicate to making worthwhile connections. So how much time does it take, & what networking strategy should I use? Business Buzz can help with this, starting with our tried & tested 3-2-1 principle that encompasses the following:
So how much time does this take? Each 1-2-1 should be about an hour long. In addition to that, factoring in driving time, time at the networking event (that’s up to 2 hours with Buzz at least once a month), finding your new connections on LinkedIn & other social media, picking up the phone to invite a visitor & to arrange your 121s, you’re looking at around 8 hours of time per networking event. This is a significant time commitment, but it’s a commitment that pays off, because networking using this approach is proven to result in meaningful connections & to create opportunity. In turn, these meaningful connections all work to raise your brand awareness, standing in the community, & ultimately, your revenue.
One of the benefits of the virtual world is the ease in attending networking events. Without needing to factor in travel time & cost, joining a networking event can be done from home, with the click of a button. With many different networking events out there, in many different locations, it’s easy to attend various networking events, but are you applying the 3-2-1 method to each & every event?
Shopping local in a global marketplace
Today it is easier than ever to connect with people on a global scale. With so many video-based conferencing tools at our disposal, often free to use, the boundaries of distance & time are transcended. As geographical borders no longer define our market, businesses can target & access customer bases regardless of their proximity. But let’s not forget, there are huge benefits to working with a local client. First & foremost, it is so much easier to meet face-to-face. If you’ve already met virtually, meeting in person allows you to reaffirm the connection you have already established. After all, if over 70% of communication is non-verbal, meeting face-to-face enables you to fully engage with & understand one another in a way you simply cannot replicate virtually. I think of networking connections like building an empire – if meeting virtually forms the centre of your business, meeting face-to-face is the start of the expansion of your personal & professional brand. Together, these connections & conversations really are the pathways that underpin networking.
As a Business Buzz event host & Regional Lead, I meet everyone who walks through my door at the networking events I operate, whether face-to-face or virtually. The power behind this is that I am putting faces to names & to businesses. These connections mean I remember my visitors, making my 1-2-1s more relevant & effective. Networking in your local community allows you to become known as the face of your sector. A genuine & consistent approach, rather than flitting & desperately looking for that next sale that may never come results in you being trusted & respected. Your commitment to your business & community gives you credibility. While there may be other people in your industry, your USP inevitably sets you apart. Being a regular, thoughtful Buzzer will get people talking about who you are & what you do for all the right reasons. As I always say, “it is better to be a big fish in a small pond, rather than a minnow in the Atlantic!”
Return on investment
As I said before, there is no quick fix when it comes to networking. It’s a marathon not a sprint, & if you dedicate time & make the commitment, you will reap the benefits.
It is important to remain visible to be viable & this is where being a regular face at a few events pays dividends. So, what are the benefits, & how do I see the return on the time I’ve invested?
Networking enables you to establish a greater understanding of customers & potential customers of your product, service or business. This may sound simple, but fully understanding your fit in the market requires research, strategy & skill. With good networking, you become equipped with the connections & opportunities to give you the best possible chance of putting yourself in front of your core customer.
Of course, knowing someone is an ideal client means you automatically know how you can best serve them. In time, people - the right people - will start to approach you at networking events asking for your solution.
Your fellow Buzzers will trust you, & will feel confident they can make those all-important introductions to people in their wider network. It is fair to say that there is an element of networking which is not just knowing your ideal clients, but knowing other people’s too.
Developing this 360-degree view will lead you to become a core connector, where you put other people in touch with one another. This action helps in building bridges between you & other business people. The right introduction serves to raise your business, & its profile.