Business networking is essentially another way of marketing your brand or organisation. One of the main advantages networking events have over other forms of marketing is that you have a captive audience. The disadvantage is that sometimes that captive audience is not very interested in you and your business, and would rather spend time talking about themselves!
Networking is about give and take. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how people I have privately dismissed as not being a potential lead for my business, have been responsible for recommending our services to some very serious clients. Lesson learnt. Business networking is not just about making direct connections with potential clients and customers; it’s also about promoting your business through word of mouth.
Business Networking For B2B Organisations
I think it’s fair to say that B2B dominates the networking circuit, and you can see why. Meeting other business owners is a very effective way of building your client list. Personally I would rather use the services of a local company than engage a faceless organisation in another area of the country. Not only does this mean that I am more likely to have regular and personal contact with my accountant / bookkeeper / solicitor, but I also contribute to the local economy and become part of the local business community.
Don’t Forget B2C!
Of course, B2C organisations can also benefit from local networking events; after all we’re all consumers and therefore may be interested in products or services on a personal level. Word of mouth is again an important factor, even when it’s telling your friends about a company you’ve met at an event. Look out for networking opportunities designed specifically for B2C companies, these can sometimes put likeminded businesses together who can work in a reciprocal way.
How To Market Your Business At Networking Events
You may be familiar with the term “elevator pitch”, something I personally find very intimidating. Not only does the idea of delivering an elevator pitch make me feel slightly queasy, but listening to one can be very off-putting.
I’m sure there are many experienced networkers who can deliver an elevator pitch with humility and style, but I can’t be the only business owner who struggles with this kind of approach?
Fortunately, we all have a USP and this may not actually be your product or service. Instead it’s your story; how you came to where you are, where your business originates from, what drives you to get up every morning and where your passions lie.
Storytelling For Better Networking
Instead of delivering your elevator pitch, tell a story. It’s a personal story that people will identify with, engage with and remember you for. You may offer the same services or sell the same product as the person sitting across the room, but your story is unique to you.
Another thing I’ve learnt is to listen to other people’s stories. Often these can be very revealing, helping me understand the challenges they face that my business can support them with. It’s a much better approach than pitching your services without any idea of whether your offering is at all relevant.
Storytelling and networking may not feel much like marketing, but they’re actually the basis of any marketing strategy. It’s about starting a conversation and providing potential customers with a reason to remember you.