Monday, 26 October 2009

Prepare your strategy, or not?

I've read an awful lot about business networking and referral marketing and one of the consistent pieces of advice seems to be to know your outcome. It seems that you should have a defined strategy for what you want to get out of each networking meeting and what sort of business you are looking for there.

Hold on though, what about the other people in the room. What if their outcome is different to yours? What if you don't know who will be in the room before you attend? It's a piece of advice that has always confused me. It actually seems a bit arrogant to walk into a room full of people with their own agendas and impose yours on them.

I have a different view on this, not saying it's right, it's just the one that works for me.

Whenever I attend a business networking meeting, I prepare my introduction (sort of) and let everything else flow. In my conversations with people I try to find out as much as possible about them and their business. That way, I get an opportunity to work out if there is any way we can work together, if their services are of interest to me or if I know someone else who might be interested in their services. From there I've got a platform to think about how I might help them, either now or in the future.

It's all about building relationships and sometimes takes time, going in with an action plan will probably lead to disappointment and potentially alienating people in the room that you might actually do business with.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

First, assemble a crowd

Business networking communities online are just like any other community, I'm never sure why people think they should behave differently online.

The mistake I see people making, is to head straight for the Classified Ads section and expect people to take notice of them. You HAVE to engage, you HAVE to involve yourself in the community before people will be interested in you and your business.

Consider this for a second, you arrive at a breakfast meet or other networking event where you don't know anyone. Immediately you stand on a chair and start broadcasting your message and your current special offer. What do you think people would think of you? Yet people do exactly that here.

Spend some time getting to know the other people in the community. Find out about their businesses, see if you have knowledge or advice that might help. By doing so, you will also get an understanding of their business, which might help you to pass business their way in the future and will definitely help you to understand how your products and services might help them.

First assemble a crowd of people who know and like you. In fact, why not just do that, business might just start flowing to you without you ever asking for it.