Networking! “Don’t have time for it” you might say. But can you afford not to network to generate leads?
Most people who attend networking events think it’s all about giving out your business cards and pitching your products and services. No it’s not! To generate leads and get referrals, you have to build a network first. Here’s a quote from Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
“The richest people in the world look to a build a network. Everyone else looks for a job.”
What is the benefit of attending networking events?
1. Networking is cost effective
Consider how much money is spent on marketing activities in any business. When I say marketing activities, think about the cost of building and maintaining a website, designing and printing business cards, signage, designing and printing brochures, other promotional activities not to mention advertising. Newspaper advertising, advertising in magazines or industry publications can be very expensive especially when trying to build a brand. But what do these businesses really get back for their efforts? What is their return on investment?
Networking allows you to build personal relationships and make connections other marketing activities struggle to do. People don’t form a relationship with a brochure or an advertisement in the newspaper. Networking does. It provides you with word of mouth advertising by making personal connections that generate leads and gets referral business.
Effective networking gives you the ability to achieve more than just about any other promotional or marketing activities because when you get it right, it’s very cost-effective. Why? Because people like to buy from people, not magazines and newspapers. People also like to buy from people they like and trust. The more you network through targeted functions and events, the less you need to advertise.
2. Networking allows you to make meaningful connections
How many times have you asked your friends or family for a recommendation? It could be for a restaurant, a book, a movie, a car or even to recommend an agent to work with. In other words we often ask the question, “Who do you know that…..”
We tend to trust the recommendations of our friends and family. It’s the exact same thing in business. We trust the recommendation of people we know, like and trust. Effective networking is the art of making personal connections which should be a vital component of your overarching marketing strategy. In business, it’s not about what you know, rather who you know and who wants to know you.
Having a successful business also relies on having a source of connections to call on whenever you need them. Talking to other business people, developing rapport, making meaningful connections grows your circle of influence. A major advantage of building a strong network, is that you also get to tap into your connections extended network as well.
3. Networking generates leads and referrals
One of the benefits of networking is the generation of leads and referrals and the major reason why business people chose to participate in networking activities. The advantage of referral business is that the lead is already pre-qualified and is usually of a higher quality. Referral business doesn’t happen overnight. It happens by consistently attending events where you not only get to know others, they get to know you. It’s a long-term strategy that with persistence will pay off.
Although leads and referrals can come from formal business network events, it’s also surprising how many contacts you can make networking at social events, volunteering for not-for-profit organizations and working with community groups who give back to the community.
4. Networking raises your profile
Building a network is more than just making connections to generate leads, it’s also about making connections with others who can provide you with advice and information as well as raise your profile. People prefer to build a network with others they consider valuable and helpful. Being visible at networking events instantly raises your profile if you regularly attend networking events and engage in networking activities. It helps to get your face and name known. If you also add value by providing useful tips, help and refer others, you build the reputation as being a person others want to get to know.
5. Networking contributes to your personal and professional development
One of the hidden benefits of attending networking events is the opportunity to mentored indirectly by others and learn new skills as a leader or manager augmenting your own personal and professional development. Chances are there are people who will connect with who have been where you have been and can offer some friendly advice. It provides you with an opportunity to learn and avoid some of the common pitfalls others have already experienced. It allows you to expand your knowledge by listening to others, share ideas in discussions or even ask for feedback. Involving yourself in discussions not only expands your knowledge base, it helps you see things from a different perspective, one that perhaps you hadn’t thought about before.
Often networking events have seminars, guest speakers and workshops where you can leverage what you learn and pass this knowledge on to your connections building a reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable and supportive person others want to get to know.
Networking is not something that you want to leave to chance. Unlike social events where you tend to hang out with people you have something in common with, cultivating a meaningful network means being intentional. Making connections and building a network takes time so be patient. It’s a long-term strategy to grow your business. Make time and plan your approach to networking so you maximize the benefits.
Next time you think that you are too busy to network, ask yourself, can you afford not to attend networking events?
On a final note
Invest time in building professional network and you will generate leads, get referrals and grow your business.
In A Nutshell
- Networking is cost-effective
- Networking allows you to make meaningful connections
- Networking generates leads and referrals
- Networking raises your profile
- Networking contributes to your personal and professional development