There are many factors that contribute to a successful business, but some might argue that networking is the most important. Then, there are the business owners that believe “if we build it, they will come”. However, in today’s economy and market, networking is not something that is just an extra step toward success, it is now viewed as a key component in what can make or break a business.
Networking helps business owners convert family, friends and followers into loyal, lifelong customers. Check out these steps below that will help expand your network of referrals and build your business through others.
- Identify Your Network
Start by identifying the networks you already have in place. To do this, sit down and start writing out all the groups, organizations and associations that you are currently part of. Are you part of a small study group at your church? Maybe you are a member of an alumni group? Do you work at an office with colleagues? These types of groups make up your personal network. You might surprise yourself with just how large this list can get if you really take the time to identify all these groups.
If your list is shorter than you would like, consider joining local networking organizations and social groups to expand your reach. Be very strategic when you are researching and joining these organizations and make sure you are keeping potential customers, or even potential new team members, top of mind to get the most return.
- Ask Your Network for Help
Once you have identified your network, start reaching out and ask them to help spread the word about your business. According to Small Business Trends, about 85 percent of businesses get their customers through word-of-mouth marketing. This is one of the easiest steps you can take to grow your business that many skip out on due to fear of bothering their network. Let this fear go and watch what happens.
You can also ask your friends and family if they’d be willing to introduce you to a group that you otherwise would not know and expand your network that way as well. By having a personal connection to a new group, your chances of networking with them increase dramatically.
- Reward for Referrals
The biggest motivators for your network to spread the word about your business are incentives. Start treating your returning customers as part of your network and consider offering a referral prize to anyone who helps bring in new business. By rewarding your network for referrals, you not only grow your business but you also create a sense of brand loyalty with the existing customer.
- Get Social
Today, social media is a critical part of any business. A business that isn’t utilizing social media to their advantage is missing out on some serious opportunity. Social Media Examiner published a recent study in which they surveyed 5,000 businesses that use social media to market their brand. The study shows 89 percent experienced increased exposure, 75 percent saw increased traffic, 68 percent noticed loyal new fans and 51 percent saw improved sales. Don’t underestimate the power and positive influence social media can have on your business.
An easy way to expand your brand’s network on social media is to host a contest. Ask your followers to share one of your posts with their personal networks and then reward one follower with a prize for doing so. Social media contests should be used judiciously, but they are an effective tool to increase referrals at a relatively low cost.
This is an efficient way to get more referrals for your business while simultaneously tapping into new networks. To cross-promote successfully, you must first find a liked-minded business that has a similar customer base as yours. You don’t want to partner with a competitor (for obvious reasons), but you can find businesses that have similar audiences as yours. For example, if you own a gym, you might consider fostering a partnership with a health food store since your gym and the health food store are both aiming to reach individuals who want to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Once you identify a partner, reach out and ask if you can form a partnership. You can work out a mutually beneficial system where you refer new clients to one another through pop-up shops in each other’s storefronts, distributing flyers, business cards, etc. This form of networking is proven to help gain more customers and establish brand credibility, especially if you align with a reputable or well-known business.
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