One of the most important things in running a business is getting your name out there in the market segment. There exists many ways to accomplish this task. Obviously with the various forms of advertising and the multitude of opportunities available to include TV and radio spots, billboards, mailing flyers, store front signs etc., getting your name out there is a balance between what the organization can afford (or has budgeted) and what form is best suited to hit the target market for your product or service. While you can throw large amounts of money at an advertising medium, one of the cheapest forms is the simple and basic networking. Networking is being able to make a connection with someone else and build a relationship which could either become a potential customer or has a connection of their own with which can connect with you. In many cases, the one person who you might think is your competition, with a strong networking relationship, could also become an opportunity for business.
Networking takes on many forms and structures. It is typically one the low cost forms of advertising available to the organization. Successful networking means you get to meet other people with a primary intent to …well…just meet other people. The best networking does not mean you are carrying a strict or hidden agenda to sell them something. That model is simply called sales. Networking is the manor with which you meet other people and the true agenda around just getting to know them and what they do as well as them getting to know you. There exists many opportunities to build a network. For reasonable money, trade shows are one of the most common. Other low cost networking opportunities are things like local Chamber of Commerce, Business Award presentations, as well as others. There are also free events to network such as charity events, public forums or meetings, social internet sites, etc. Even your own competition can be in your network and prove to be an ally in some sense. It is OK to have connections with those around you without revealing current business status or your customer base.
Your network can provide vast amounts of information which you can utilize to guide your business. Simple conversation’s within the network can provide general assessments on how the market place is doing overall. It can also provide information about changes in the environment with which you operate within leading you to further research or validation which in turn transitions towards changes in the direction of the organization. It can also help you to keep a pulse on what is happening around your environment even though those in your network are not in your line of work or related to your market segment. Getting to know other people in the network, including what you may feel is your competition, could keep you up to date on events that are occurring around your organization. General discussions often lead to areas where you can provide help to someone else which will strengthen your connection and possibly enhance your exposure around the community. It can also provide opportunities or ideas which you can incorporate into your products or services and will enhance your current offerings. In some cases, it may even provide opportunities for learning something new and increase skill sets which might not otherwise have been available or known to exist if not within the network.
It is important to take time to build your network with no hidden agenda’s. It is also important to build your network without an attitude of business stature. By this I mean feeling you and your business are better than others. Getting involved in your network not only increases your presence within your environment around you but also around others. It is important to keep your network up to date and stay involved. To be successful, there cannot be any hidden agendas. You never know when you will need to tap into the network for assistance, guidance, advice, or even the opportunity to provide your organizations’ product or service. Keep your mind clear and your intentions pure, work hard to not rashly burn any bridges, and your network just might provide the organization future business. Most of all however, building your network will facilitate connectivity to others which can lead to close relationships and reliabilities between you and another organization’s seeking the same sense of connectivity.
O.M.E.M., LLC – Helping Businesses Improve