“It is not what you know, but who you know” that counts – that’s what we’ve all heard. Well, imagine what happens when we change that to “it is not who you know, but who they know” that counts! Smart business owners typically have a network of contacts in place, but the smartest business owners use their contacts to get more contacts.

Asking for referrals is not often done by new business owners. They are working so hard to promote their business to people they already know to get their sales going that they forget that behind the people they know is a whole other group of people that might be interested in buying their product/service as well. Working ON your business is just as important as working IN your business.

Networking is utilizing all your resources. Resources can be found anywhere and everywhere. Everyone you meet in life has the potential to be a good resource for you. The most fascinating aspect of this is that you never know where your next lead comes from. People are connected through a web of friendships, sports, schools, religion, hobbies, business, neighborhoods, etc.

I was once consulting with a janitorial supply company. One day, an elderly man came in to buy supplies, he asked me what I was doing there and once I explained my purpose there, he asked for my card. A few days later I got a call from a woman who needed to organize her busy household as well as her start-up home-based business. We met and she agreed to my consulting with her. I asked her how she got my name and number and she told me about the elderly man who polished her floors. He told her about my business and so she called. I was with her for eight years! And all it cost me was a friendly chat with a sweet older man

Cultivating your networking technique takes an investment of time, effort and money. I like that word: cultivation. It implies that you have to work at it, that you have to nourish it and encourage it to grow and produce a result that is beneficial to you and your business. In some of my classes and/or consultations, I often hear that someone has joined a networking group but it didn’t generate any business for them. When I ask them if they were active in the group, they typically shrug or say no. Well, signing up and paying the fee is not what this is all about. It is about joining committees, going to mixers, luncheons and power breakfasts; it is about volunteering at the local fundraiser, chairing an event and sharing your knowledge as a guest speaker.

You must participate and be active so people can meet you and get to know you and remember you. People, as a rule, prefer to hire someone that is recommended rather than some unknown person listed in directory. The more people who are out there recommending you the bigger the chances are that you will get more customers

An effective Networking Campaign requires an organized approach. First, do your research. There a many networking groups out there. You can’t possibly be a member in all of them; no one can. By attending a meeting or two, for each networking group, you should find out how they work and what they have to offer. How big is their membership base? Obviously, the bigger the group, the more contacts you will make. Do they allow more than one business type in the group? Some limit membership to one accountant, one dentist, one insurance broker, etc. Do they have lots of events that bring business owners together? They should. You don’t want to join an organization that does not have a strong agenda of meetings and activities. Look for the networking groups that provide the right outlet for your product or service with people who have a genuine interest it.

Find out what the cost of membership is and what it includes. Some provide e-mail addresses for you to use to promote your business (with a limit as to how often you can send out your promos). Some host business trade shows. Some groups offer the opportunity to address the group and speak about your business; have your “pitch” ready at all times!

Networking has to be a positive experience. It is best to pick one or two networking groups and work them effectively to get started. As your business grows, so can the list of networking groups you join. Focus on the people there; get to know them and their business as you share what your business is all about. A good networker is also a good resource. By giving out helpful information when people need it, they will remember you. When they remember you, they will refer you. And that is Networking at its’ best!

It is easy to network your business when you Love what you do and Live the life you love!

Happy Networking, Helene

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