Networking is a crucial skill every entrepreneur should develop that can help you grow your business. But, many small business owners avoid networking thinking it requires schmoozing and slick selling. Successful networking is actually the opposite.
Here is what I have found to be the top three business networking mistakes. And, don’t feel bad if you’ve made any of these mistakes. Many of us have once made these same mistakes too. Let’s just focus on which one might be hurting your business and get to work on fixing them to start seeing positive results from your business networking.
Networking Mistakes #1. Using your 30 second commercial to recite a long list of all your services.
I’ve watched people’s eyes glaze over many times as they try to process the long list of services the business owner is rattling off. Here are a couple examples:
BEFORE Example 1:
“I am the owner of ABC Natural Healing Center. We offer: acupuncture, chiropractic care, Myofascial release, NAET, Neuro Emotional Technique, Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy, Reiki and yoga classes. Come in for an appointment at our offices in Anytown.”
Yikes! Most people probably don’t even know what half those things are!
How about this example:
BEFORE Example 2:
“I am a business coach. I offer personal one on one phone coaching, group coaching, training courses, mastermind programs, marketing consulting and speaking engagements. I also have a free newsletter and I offer free webinars and business coaching discovery consultations.”
“I am the owner of ABC Natural Healing Center. We help kids and adults recover quickly from sports injuries, back pain, headaches, insomnia, anxiety and many other chronic symptoms without using pharmaceutical drugs or surgery.”
My Own AFTER Example 2:
“I am a business growth expert. I help solo entrepreneurs and small business owners recover quickly from sales slumps, scattered focus and overwhelm. I can help you create and hit the right business goals in 90 days or less.”
Networking Mistakes #2. Focusing on converting customers at networking events.
If you evaluate whether a particular networking event was a good or bad use of your time based on whether you made a sale or picked up an immediate referral you are probably focused on the wrong goal. Objectives for networking events are different than for trade shows.
First, understand It’s not your fault.
It’s only natural as a business owner to want to see immediate results from your networking efforts. After all, much of your success was due to your unbridled commitment to being results focused.
You invested several hours to attend the networking event, so of course you feel as if you should get something from your time.
Why is this a networking mistake? … Because that’s not how people buy.
Solution: Focus on making new friends not just new clients.
Since you are networking to grow your business, it might feel contrarian to NOT focus on getting new clients out of it. But, if you’re trying too hard it shows. People can feel when someone is looking at them as just their next sale.
In order for networking to be successful, you do need to connect with people. Be genuine and sincere in making new friends. That’s not to say you should be passive and avoid talking about your business at all. But, first, focus on just being yourself, and not just you the “company” or you the “sales person”.
Years ago I attended an evening networking event for coaches. I was taken aback by a woman who sharply interrupted a conversation I was having with another attendee. Without any announcement or waiting for a pause for permission she shoved a flyer in our hands and told us to sign up for her certification training today because the $2,000 price expires tomorrow.
Here are key reasons why this tactic doesn’t work:
Her sale offer was to spend $2,000 today, but $2,000 is not an impulse buy price point.
The problem wasn’t so much that she handed me a flyer. The problem was how clear she made it she was on a mission to leave with lots of sales.
There were about 80 people at the event. Instead of leaving with 1 or 2 sales, she could have easily left with 50 to 70 new subscribers, especially because this was such a targeted group of people. Over time, she could convert 25 to 45 new customers which is far more valuable to her business than the immediate 1 or 2 sales.
This is a much easier networking strategy, but it does require having a list building system.
Networking Mistakes #3. Not having a list building system.
What is a list?
This is an email list of people who are potential customers and clients who are subscribed to be on your email list.
You can not simply take the email addresses off of business cards or directories of people you met and put them on your list. That is actually against the CANSPAM laws.
Why have an email list?
You may have heard the expression, the “fortune is in the follow up.”
The problem is it’s really hard to keep up with the follow up when you’re taking the manual approach of sending one email at a time. A list building system makes follow up a cinch.
What is a list building system?
It starts with having an irresistible, free lead magnet.
A lead magnet is a free offer people receive instantly when they opt in with their email address.
You let subscribers know they will also receive more tips from you through email.
You stay top of mind and convert more clients over time when you follow up with valuable tips you deliver through your email system.
Remember, 10 new subscribers is worth far more to your business than 1 new sale.
SOLUTION: Shift your focus from getting more sales to getting a more subscribers.
It takes time to build trust and confidence. When you have a subscriber list you can scale building a relationship with your group of prospects.
Networking is one of multiple marketing tactics you need to have included in your marketing plan today. Be sure to grab my free printable MARKETING CHECKLIST to develop your winning marketing plan today.
QUESTION: Share your comments. What is getting in your way of creating a list building system for your business and networking?
*This article was originally published in AARP – Life ReImagined
Word of mouth is an unbeatable career and business builder. Here’s how to max it out.
As a business coach, Yoon Cannon relies on word of mouth referrals to grow her venture. But she faces a tricky challenge: The nature of her service makes it awkward for clients to tell their connections about her. “It’s an odd thing to say, `I think you should hire a business coach,’” she observes.
Cannon has found a way around that. To market her firm, Paramount Business Coach in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, she posts a blog that covers interesting topics, like inexpensive marketing techniques and the traits of successful entrepreneurs. When she adds a new post, she shares it on LinkedIn, making it easy for her followers to pass the links along without suggesting the recipient needs help. Similarly, she sends her contacts links to information on free webinars she holds, which they, in turn, can pass along to their network.
“Those are things that make it easy for people to refer me,” says Cannon. “They’re not referring me as, `Hire Yoon to be your personal business coach.’”
Whether you’re trying to stand out as a small business owner or in a traditional corporate career, enthusiastic professional referrals are an important way to get an edge. Doing so is a much better way to express ideas by word of mouth than in the cold formality of print. In a recent study by Manta, an online social network for business owners, more than half of recipients said that, compared to meeting people at events or participating in social networking sites, customer referrals provided the biggest boost for their business. At the same time, in corporate America, more companies are turning to their staff for referrals to prospective employees, instead of relying only on outside sources like ads on job boards.
But as Cannon’s experience shows, getting referrals doesn’t happen by accident. You’ve got to understand how to make it easy for people in your network to refer you. And your timing and approach need to take into account what’s at stake for those who might refer you.
“When you give a referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away,” says Ivan Misner, PhD, founder and chairman of the global business networking group BNI (Business Network International). “People give relationships to people they know and trust.” And she points to the downside when things don’t work out down the line. “They understand that giving a referral can hurt their relationship with the party they are giving the referral to.” Here are 5 strategies for making yourself more referable.
Nurture relationships with customers and colleagues. The people who report the most success from their networking efforts focus on building relationships first and on doing business second, according to research by BNI, which helps members build referral networks.
That doesn’t mean wining and dining everyone around you. It’s a matter of building trust—and that comes from giving every client your highest level of service, or, if you have a corporate job, making sure you meet and exceed the expectations of your boss and colleagues consistently. “Networking is more about farming than hunting,” says Ivan Misner, Ph.D, BNI’s founder and chairman. “It’s about cultivating relationships with other business professionals.”
Those who are more “transactional” in their approach—trying to tap people they’ve just met for favors or new business–often find their approach less effective, according to BNI’s research. If you’ve ever had a great conversation with someone at a business conference and then gotten a phone call a couple of days later pressuring you to make a deal, you understand how off-putting it can be. That new acquaintance is suffering from what Misner calls the networking disconnect. “They try to sell before building a relationship,” he says.
Raise your profile. If you’ve just started a small business or recently made a career change, becoming visible and establishing credibility in your professional community are the first steps to getting referrals. “People have to know who you are and what you do—and know that you’re good at it,” Misner says. Contributing to industry publications or volunteering to serve on a committee or speak at a conference for your professional association are all good approaches. As well as promoting by word of mouth by putting signs and posters up.
This works for well-established pros, too. Cannon, who is in her forties, attends meetings of the local chapter of Le Tip International, a networking group where members make brief presentations about what they do. Instead of attempting to make deals with people she’s just met, she’s asked the group to consider her as a speaker or to pass along information about a seminar she is holding. “I’m giving them value as a thought leader in my area,” she says. In four or five years, the group has given her 32 referrals to people who eventually became clients.
Are you frustrated with the results you’ve been seeing from traditional live networking events? Well, did you know if you run a strong online campaign that will help you convert more prospects who you meet offline? That way, the people you do meet face to face at live networking events have many ways to stay connected with you and to learn more about your area of expertise.
Here are 5 key ways to help you double your networking results:
1.) Make sure you’re networking with your target market or referral partners
If you want to double your networking results, the first thing to check is to make sure you’re not fishing in the wrong pond! There are hundreds of different networking events and opportunities you could spend your time attending. But, that does not mean that they are necessarily the right crowds for you. Seek first networking groups and events that attract a higher percentage of attendees who do fall in your ideal target market profile. It’s much harder to get the visibility you want in a group that is diluted with too many people who are NOT your target market. (more…)
Does your business feel like a roller coaster ride where sales are either at an exciting high or they’re at a panic level low? This pendulum is stressful on your cash flow. It’s also highly stressful on your mindset.
So, what can you do to build a customer pipeline so you can have a steady flow of new clients instead of living through spikes of feast or famine? Building a strong customer pipeline doesn’t have to be something all that complicated. It can be as simple as segmenting your interest groups from your customer groups. Then from there mapping out a sequence of offers to both groups that will entice them and invite them to move from no risk, to low risk offers.
Here are my 7 key stages to building a strong customer pipeline that you can implement right away into your business today: (more…)