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Networking - Whats the point?

Posted 7/9/2016

This is a question that many people have asked themselves, indeed I asked it myself prior to joining my first group a number of years ago. Through my experience I have found that effective networking can be a very powerful tool for you and your business.

There are many forms of networking including;

Informal networking – social events, volunteer groups etc.

Organised Network Groups – Chamber of Commerce Events, Networks Groups such and BNI, Women in Business or the local Kingdom BIZ Killorglin Group.

Online Network Groups – Groups on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter groups such as @irishbizparty or @KingdomBizHour

So back to the question: Why bother with any of these? Are they a good use of my time? What are the benefits and what is the best strategy to use?

I have found that the best strategy to adopt is to “Put Others Needs Before Your Own”. Also known as the “How Can I Help You?” strategy.

When networking, it is always important to remember your brand. You Are Your Brand and the aim is to turn all your contacts into advocates of your brand. The best way to do this is by listening to their needs and suggesting solutions where possible. Remember that you have two ears and only one mouth so listen at least twice as much as you talk. If a person is only in it for themselves, and provides little assistance to the group, this will reflect poorly on their brand and as a consequence networking could end up having a negative impact on their business.

The four key benefits that I have experienced are: Advice & Information Sharing, Leads & Referrals, Reputation & Credibility, and Positivity & Self Esteem.

Advice & Information Sharing

The depth of knowledge and experience in a group can often be under appreciated. The members may have experienced similar issues that you or your business are going through. Use the group as a form of market research to bounce ideas off of or to look for better ways of doing things. Learning from others best practices or mistakes saves time, energy and potentially money.

Leads & Referrals

If your network trusts you then they will refer you to contacts in other networks should the opportunity arise. Similarly it is great forum to hear about new businesses in the area before it is common knowledge, which may give you a march on the competition. Possibly more important than Leads and Referrals your network can also warn you if they have had negative experiences with potential clients of yours which could save you a lot of time, heartache and money.

Raising your Profile, Reputation and Credibility

Having a large network will improve your personal and professional profiles; it will also be very useful if you wish to promote a new product or service. Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful forms of advertising, be it online or face to face. Credibility and reputation are greatly enhanced by endorsements or recommendations from seemingly unconnected third parties.

Positivity, Confidence and Self Esteem

Being involved in a network of people with a common interest can improve self-esteem and build confidence. I remember one of the biggest things that I got out of the first network I was involved in; was the feeling of “If they can do it so can I”. Your confidence will grow from speaking about your business to the members of your network which will make it less daunting to speak to other third parties. Providing that you are honest the members of your network will be there to reassure you in difficult times and also to challenge you if you are acting recklessly.

A new Face to Face network “The Kingdom BIZ Killorglin Network” will launch on Thursday 15th September. Meetings will take place weekly on Thursdays from 7:30am to 8:30am. Spaces are limited and we can only admit one member per profession/trade/service. Please contact me for further details.

Monthly Kingdom BIZ networking evenings will take place once a month, these will be less formal and more social gatherings. Further details will be announced on Twitter @KingdomBIZHour or closer to the first meet-up.

Face to face networking can sound daunting for some but don’t forget about social networks, these have many advantages as they remove geographical barriers. You will have more time to respond to queries and it is easier to keep record of who you spoke to and about what. There are plenty of online forum and discussion groups across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. One of such is @KingdomBIZHour on Twitter which meets every Thursday online between 9pm and 10pm. You can join the chat and make new connections or just watch the hashtag #KingdomBIZ and if something or someone grabs your attention you can engage with them.

The important thing about networking is to always remember that you are representing your brand. The way you treat others will be assumed to reflect the way your business would treat them. Remember if at first you don’t succeed, congratulations you are normal, try again and again and again. Advocacy is the goal of networking as word of mouth advertising is inexpensive and very effective.  

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