Local Business Networks
In this chapter we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty of how to effectively network in the real world to get results, and by results we mean sales for your business.
If there is anything we want you to take away from this chapter is, then it’s the first rule of business networking: “Give other business owners’ referrals (a.k.a. business) and they will do the same for you.”
Pretty simple right?
It’s just good business karma.
Local Business Networking Groups
In almost every city around the world local business networking groups exist. The most common example of these groups would be your local chamber of commerce. Typical chambers of commerce will meet several times a month for various events such as new business openings, speaking engagements and small business workshops.
Over the years, niche networking groups have developed in order to increase the effectiveness of local relationship building. Some common networking groups include:
- LeTip – LeTip groups meet once a week and only one business per category is allowed (to avoid competition within the group). Members are required to either provide a business referral or do business with a member each week. This helps members understand what each other’s businesses are – thus catalyzing the networking effectiveness of the group.
- BNI – Business Network International is similar to LeTip, but has groups outside of North America. The group mechanics are very similar in operation to LeTip.
- Your local chamber of commerce – The beauty of your local chamber of commerce is that they connect you with your city’s movers and shakers. These relationships can be hugely effective.
How Can Business Networking Groups Help Your Business?
In a nutshell, the bigger your professional network, the more trusted referrals you’ll get. When we say “referral”, don’t just think of a referral as an interested first-time home buyer or someone who needs a gentle dentist. A referral can also be a local person looking for certain products that you sell.
Now you can network day and night and get zero benefit out of it. Simply collecting thousands of business cards won’t ignite explosive growth. However, if you network the right way, it might be the only form of marketing you ever do. Many professional networkers will say this time and time again.
Here are 6 key strategies toward successful networking:
- Be memorable to other business owners – When you attend these groups you need to be memorable. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have a very unique and creative business card. Alternatively, experienced networkers will have a silly poem as a tagline: “When you’re bathroom becomes a bummer, just remember Pete the Plumber!” You don’t necessarily have to be “cheesy”, but you MUST find a way to be memorable.
- Find businesses in your network that compliment your own – If you own an online jewelry store, you should partner up with local businesses that are in the wedding industry. By referring business to your power partners (which is WAY easier to do than to refer business to non-related businesses), the greater the chance your power partners will refer you business in return. Makes sense right?
- Find out which networking groups are effective – Not all groups are going to be good at delivering business. When you start attending business networking groups in your area, ask other business owners what other groups they like. Over time you’ll notice a trend of what groups seems to deliver the best value.
- Frequent these groups once a week – The only way anyone is going to remember who you are, and more importantly, what you do, is if you show your face regularly. The more you show up, the more referrals you will get.
- Identify the superstar networkers – In every networking group there will always be “superstar” networkers. These are business owners that really understand the value of synergizing and helping other businesses out. What you want to do is identify these superstars and develop a good relationship with them. Generally these people will have been in the group the longest, and will have the most influence within the group.
- Keep going – The reward of networking doesn’t happen overnight. You will need to devote a good few months for it to really take effect. This goes back to giving people in your networking group time to know who you are and what you do. Also, you’ll need time to deliver your first referrals too. But once you get your networking mojo down – it can pay off immensely.
How Does This Help My Quest For Global Domination?
As you grow and your business scales, local business networking may not fit into your weekly regimen. But when you’re starting off, it’s a great way to get your local community aware of your business. Especially if you have a brick-and-mortar location. In certain metropolitan areas, developing your local strength can be a huge portion of your revenue.
However, as you get busier, you’ll notice that business networking takes time. You’ll have to make the call as to whether or not you can fit networking into your schedule and if it’s worth it to your bottom line. Many established businesses will send employees to networking groups to maintain a presence in the local business community.
Whatever you do, get out there and give networking a shot. It’s a great way to create opportunities for your business that sitting behind a computer can’t get you.