by Sandra Kahale
Networking can be a real boost to your business. But it takes more than reciting your elevator pitch and handing out business cards to succeed.
The real power of networking doesn’t lie in small talk and stacks of business cards, but rather in real conversations, real connections, and the opportunity to give and get real value from being out in your community.
Wherever you are in business or life, you have things to learn and things to teach. You’ve got insight someone might benefit from, and questions someone might answer. Approaching networking as a collegial, community-oriented activity opens up possibilities far beyond simply landing customers.
As you build your network and connect with your local business community, four especially valuable connections to focus on are:
Allies share similar goals and markets. For example, a life coach might form alliances with practitioners who offer nutrition, career testing, or art therapy services to add value for his or her clients.
Similarly, a general contractor might find allies among real estate agents, staging professionals, and specialized tradespeople.
As you build and nurture your network, ask yourself: Who shares similar business goals and/or the same target market? How can you work together to benefit both of you?
Ambassadors are enthusiastic about you, your business, and the value you create. They’re fans who spread the word, often without you even knowing it.
Happy customers make great ambassadors, and testimonials can expand their reach even further. When you’re collecting testimonials, make sure they’re authentic and relatable, and that they address the predictable questions and concerns of potential buyers.
“Good, affordable roofing” is not as powerful a testimonial as “Our roof was falling apart and we were afraid it would cost a fortune to fix. We were delighted by how affordable your price was, the high quality materials, and how well you did the work.”
These types of testimonials have a significant impact on sales, especially online, where people rely more heavily on comments and reviews to help them make buying decisions.
As you grow your network, ask yourself: Who loves what you do and how you do it? How could they help you spread the word about your business?
Aides help you get things done. Often, they take on tasks that you don’t excel at, so that you can focus on the places where you really add value in your business. Writers, designers, web masters, bookkeepers, and admin support are good examples of aides.
As you build your network of support, ask yourself: What tasks are you doing in your business right now that add little value or could be done better by someone else? Who can help you get those things done?
Expediters are people who can help us push through (or go around!) the many barriers and challenges we can face in our businesses. They’re people we can count on to be on our team.
One of the most important things expediters can help us do is to clear blockages. These can be administrative or bureaucratic, like setting up business registration and licensing, or getting the right permits for something. They can also be related to our mindset or skills, like lacking the confidence or know-how to do sales effectively.
Another thing expediters do is connect us with the right people or resources, helping us to expand our reach and multiply our impact.
As you look to build and optimize your network, ask yourself: What’s an area in your business where you’re feeling stuck or could use some support? Who can help you move things forward?
Now take a look at your own network. Do you have a good pool of Allies, Ambassadors, Aides, and Expediters? Focus on building your network where it’s weakest. As you do, be sure to be generous, show gratitude, keep your promises, and stay connected to get the most of the time you invest in your relationships.
Sandra Kahale helps businesses launch and grow strategically. Find out more at www.onwordconsulting.com.