The term "networking" often has negative connotations due to its frequent use in pyramid schemes and the like. But networking is actually a very real, necessary part of marketing for any type of business or idea. The amazing thing about networking is you can do it successfully without scaring off your friends and family. Let's look at some simple ways to unleash the power of networking among those you know.
Nothing you say or do will have merit unless you are truly genuine in heart and mind. There's some truth to the old saying, "If you help enough people get what they want, you will eventually get what you want." Keep that in mind when going about your daily business. Make a sincere effort to focus on others and put your interests on the back burner.
Somehow, helping those around you tends to come back around in unexpected ways. If you own a business, helping others can become a form of networking without your even realizing it. When folks love and respect you because you have been kind to them in word and deed, do you honestly think they'll send potential customers to your competitors?
Getting referrals from friends, family or current customers is one of the most powerful ways to expand your business. Think about it. A referred customer already trusts your company and is usually already sold on your service when he or she calls or arrives at your place of business. All you have to do is deliver the caliber of service promised by the one who referred the customer to you.
Referrals should always be a priority in your networking efforts. Keep some business cards on hand and write a special offer on the back for those who decide to refer a friend. Ask for referrals on your Web site, and let customers know you will send out a referral gift the moment their referred person buys from you.
If you own a local business, offer to leave business cards with your referral offer in other local businesses. These could be printing shops, supply stores, retail stores, your accountant, maintenance persons (electrician, handyman, landscapers and so forth), lawyers, your favorite restaurants, or anyone who might come in contact with your potential customers.
Offer to hand out their business cards to return the favor.
There are likely several groups you can join in your geographic area or even online where you can network with other business owners. Consider attending local chamber of commerce meetings, networking group meetings with other business owners, online discussion forums et cetera.
In addition, attend industry tradeshows, both for the payments industry and for vertical markets your business is focusing on. The Electronic Transactions Association, all of the regional acquirers associations and many other special-interest organizations have annual or more frequent meetings that set aside time specifically for networking.
And don't just join these groups; get involved in the ones that appeal to you the most. Volunteer on committees, help organize events, greet newcomers and take on other assignments, and you'll see the value of your relationships within these organizations grow accordingly.
When someone shows interest in your company or products, be ready to give an answer when the person asks you questions about your business. Many business owners are actually stumped when asked the big question, "What exactly do you do?"
Owning a business and being able to clearly explain what the business does are two entirely different things. Think through ahead of time how you will explain what you do and the purpose of your business. Consider your primary purpose and who your business is meant to help (your target customer). This will help those who refer you to others understand how to present your company in a positive, informative manner.
Enlist the aid of other professionals in your circle. Take turns answering questions about your businesses and giving each other feedback. As with everything, practice will lead to great improvement.
As you meet new people, keep in mind that you are a representative of your company or product. Everyone you meet is either a potential client or a possible referral source for new sales leads. Seize every moment to network your business.
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