Networking & Word of Mouth
“Many believe effective networking is done face-to-face, building a rapport with someone by looking at them in the eye, leading to a solid connection and foundational trust.” – Raymond Arroyo
It is the norm for most businesses to cite client referrals, networking and ‘word-of-mouth’ as an important factor in winning new business. However, it is very rare for a business to have a strategy and framework to influence these actions or make them happen.
If referrals, recommendations and word-of-mouth business is not planned for and possible opportunities not maximised, then an awful lot of time and new business is squandered.
In the digital world B2B networking is catered for by LinkedIn and it is well worth studying how to set up a LinkedIn account properly and how to maximise the networking benefits therein. For B2C businesses then social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.) are the go-to places. But, often businesses miss the point if they overlook the importance of traditional methods to market their business.
People do business with people, so it’s well worth the investment in getting out there and meeting people that might turn into your next best customer!
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- Networking – Networking is a huge umbrella term for all the ways you can get to know people that you can sell to or buy from. The term covers a chat in a pub through to major, disciplined networking groups. ‘Gentle networking sessions generally include The Chamber of Commerce and The Federation of Small Business … much more disciplined groups would include BNI and to a lesser extent 4Networking which are both big national associations with more structures and rules. There are also plenty of regional and local networking groups and if you are a lady there are a number of ‘women only’ networking groups (generally speaking, women are more natural networkers more than men!). They all have their own styles and approaches and it’s worth trying them all to see which meetings are structured around your personal likes.
- More thoughts on networking – if you are going to attend a formal networking meeting then remember to approach this like any other marketing activity.
- Firstly, think about your customer – think what their needs and challenges are – are ‘they’ in the room or are you asking the people in the room to introduce you?
- Next, remember your core message – how are you going to communicate this within the room – do you need marketing materials to help (banner stands, business cards, flyers, etc).
- Finally, remember to use your ears and mouth in the same ratio – you shouldn’t approach a room without your ears in full radar mode and your brain switched on (and aimed at trying to help the other attendees). Be creative in how you pitch or present your business to the room and DON’T WAFFLE – it irritates everyone else!
- Creating Word of Mouth referrals – It’s a great feeling when a customer rates your product or service so much they refer someone to you. This doesn’t have to be beyond your control and you can influence how this happens. With every one of your current customers, part of your dialogue with them should be ‘Have I done a good job for you?’ followed by the crucial ‘would you be willing to recommend me to others?’ These questions should be part of your customer relations and if you ask people it is much more likely that they will refer people to you. In the modern, digital, world, you should also strongly encourage people to write testimonials or recommendations for you on LinkedIn … or get your customers to review you on Facebook.
- Kick-backs and Finders fees – It depends on your industry but it is an effective way to keep you in people’s minds if they are rewarded for bringing new business to you. If you are going to offer this then consider how you can also build this into your marketing activity. A regular email newsletter ‘congratulating’ someone for receiving their finders fee is a powerful message to others that they’re missing out!
- Nurturing – One of the most overlooked of all traditional marketing methods. Your existing and dormant clients are well worth keeping in touch with. Decide on the best strategy for your business that allows you to keep in touch and remind them of who you are and what you do.
Don’t join the first networking group you visit – tour as many as you can and pick the one that suits you best and where you will ‘fit in’.
Yorkshire Powerhouse – thinking about networking & word of mouth
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