Friday, 18 February 2011

Proof Of The Pudding

The world for Small Businesses has changed in the last couple of years. Once it was necessary to ’put yourself about’ and attend everything that was going, to be seen and to make contacts. That is not so much the case anymore. The small business owner has other ways of building a profile and there are so many events that it does not much matter if you miss a few, there will be another one along in a minute.
I used to hear it said there were around 90 networking organisations in the Gwent area and a few more have started up since. It is Buyer’s Choice – there are a variety of flavours out there and you should pick and chose these days. 
Proof of the pudding is not fulfilled by the number of leads, if any you get out of an event. I am continually surprised at the number of people who simply don’t understand this.  The message seems be there that button holing a likely victim and doing a hard sell on them is not adviseable and to be fair I haven’t come across anyone haranguing me about their wares lately. Others who turn up to a meeting and leave early because it is not working for them are too cynical and have missed a point I feel.  The soft skills of dealing with people and being interested are the skills of networking. If that is not your forte you may need a partner.
I have come across someone who monopolised all conversations while at the same time committing two other networking sins.  Marketing services have a lot to do with presentation. He was fishing for  marketing work and yet his personal presentation was in all respects dreadful.  An oxymoron at work.  I would feel embarrassed to introduce him to my clients. The debate around what is acceptable business dress and considerations of routine personal hygiene is interesting but there are minimal limits surely? Another sin was mentioning that his business was very new and yet had some household names on its books. None of it fits together. While some people did not seem to mind, some of his audience did, and he made no friends that day
Networking is primarily about building a network of good relationships. Coming home with a fist full of cards and spamming those people with over familiar emails is not a good idea. Once you have had a couple of conversations with them you will have worked out, and so will they, that there is a complementary relationship building.  That is time to have a coffee elsewhere then - make an appointment and sit down with them for an hour.
This is called a 121 on some circles. Its purpose is to find out about the other business and build a friendly relationship. The first few minutes are usually about putting the world to rights, or establishing like minded ground.  After that some business ideas should be emerging. Ask questions! Again this is not about selling. It is up to them to find out about your business and you. A few helpful leading references can be slipped in but the main focus is taking an interest in the other party.
The profile you create at all levels will work for you if you are true to what you do and say.  Plus, your virtual profile is also working alongside you. Social media is here and in your face book. It’s also in the air and twittering. LinkedIn and blogs are helping. Do not underestimate the power of these channels. There are hundreds more but like the networking meetings – some are for you and some not. Pay attention and keep it ticking over.
If you don’t ‘get it’, investigatefurther. Ignoring networking – on line or in person is a mistake. You can get help with these subtle aspects of Marketing from us at Bob Shepherd Associates

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