Basic Networking for Business
a Strategies Tutorial
This basic networking for business strategies tutorial explains how to use one of the more effective ways to grow your business today. What is networking in business and how can you take advantage of it to grow?
Basic networking is getting together with other like-minded business people to learn more about each other and see if you might be able to do business together. It can be as simple and casual as chatting with someone at a local chamber of commerce mixer or at lunch after a business seminar, or it can be done more formally as part of a local networking group that meets together on a regular basis to network and refer business to each other.
One of the oldest and most popular organizations for networking in business with local chapters all over the world is Business Networking International (www.bni.com). Like many formal networking groups, local chapters only allow one business from a particular profession to join so there is no competition within the group. They meet on a regular basis and require attendance at their weekly meetings, and they also require that you give referrals to other members on a regular basis.
GoldStar Referral Club is relatively new on the scene yet has experienced some pretty impressive results already. Based on the BNI model, they are more relaxed and less expensive.
Another basic networking organization worth checking out is LeTip International (www.letip.com) If you do a quick Google search for “business networking” in your town, odds are good that you will find some other networking group options as well. Almost all groups charge some kind of membership fee to join on either a monthly or yearly basis, but will usually allow you to attend a meeting or two for free in order to see if their group is a good fit for you.
Start Your Own Group
What do you do if your town does not have any groups for networking in business that you can join? Start one of your own!
Take the initiative to invite the owners of just ten small businesses to meet once every week or two at a local restaurant for breakfast or lunch. Many restaurants have private rooms you to use for free as long as you are ordering food and drinks and you get the added benefit of extra visibility as the organizer of your local group. Grow your group as large as you want, or keep it small and intimate as well based on your shared vision and goals.
Whether you are chatting with one person you just met or belong to a formal networking group, here are a few successful strategies to help you get the most from your basic networking efforts.
1. Be genuinely interested in the other person and what they do. Many people at networking events are only interested in pushing their business cards into as many other hands as possible. However, if you really want people to remember you, ask them questions about their business and show them that you are most interested in seeing how you can help them grow theirs.
2. Use a lead generating business card. Just as you might promote a free special report or video in a newspaper advertisement or on your website, consider doing the same thing with your business card. For example, a Realtor could have their standard contact information on the front of their business card, but the back invites the prospect you to a website for downloading the free special report about The 5 Secrets You Must Know Before Purchasing a New Home. Free, special reports like this are a great way to give prospects a low pressure way to get to know you, while you get to demonstrate your expertise.
3. Follow up with prospects after you meet. If the business cards you collected while networking do not have a mailing address, call or email their office to get one, and send them a “nice to meet you” greeting or note card. Going the extra mile here will cause your prospects to more likely to remember you when they have a need for your services or know of anyone they can refer to you. Take things even further and ask for a prospect's birthday (just the day and month) and remember them when it does arrive.
Try it Yourself
As with any marketing effort, test out networking for yourself and see if it suits your business and gives you a positive return for the time you invest. Consider reading Bob Burg’s excellent book Endless Referrals which many people would consider THE standard for basic networking in business.
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