In the digital age, online reviews have almost completely taken the place of the word-of-mouth referrals. Reviews are what prospective buyers use to research your product or service and decide if they would like to do business with you. They also let people share their personal experience about your product or service.
Topics: Social Media
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Many of us have been to organized networking events where it seems all everyone does is work the room with a stack of business cards handing out as many as possible. When I have come back to the office all I have is a stack of business cards. Many times I can’t put a face to a business card, let alone how a business networking relationship might work with a person I just met. Lately I have even seen networking events called “speed networking.” To me, the thought of speed networking doesn’t make any more sense than speed dating.
I have discovered that I find the best business networking partners when working in civic groups, educational organizations like the Texas State University Small Business Development Center, and most importantly from others who I have a solid networking relationship with. We all know a warm lead is better than a cold one, and a solid referral is the best way to develop new business relationships.
The key to effective business networking is establishing a one on one relationship with another business professional who has a complimentary network to yours. Once you have identified a person or company that looks prospective, make sure their character and business values match yours. You want to network with people that have the same ethical and service oriented standards as you.
Here are some places I find new valuable networking partners.
Meetup Groups. My company hosts a monthly meetup group that focuses on business educational topics for business owners and operations management of Austin area businesses. We have had 22 meetings and have about 180 members registered in the group. There is a core of solid core of about 35 regular members who have attended more than a half dozen times. We don’t advertise as a networking group, rather as an educational group.
Our goal is to provide a presenter for the group each month who will send members back to their office with some actionable information that they can immediately use. It is safe to say that I have become strong networking partners with about 15 people of that core group. I have taken the time to get to know them, their interests outside of work and what kind of challenges their company faces. Our group has become so close that many members will stay 30 - 40 minutes after the end of the program to catch up and truly get to know one another. While we aren’t a networking group, real networking is taking place because of the type of people who attend and level of trust most of the members have with one another. I belong to several other meet up groups where the same kind of authentic networking organically happens.
Linked-In. I have found the key to effective networking on Linked in is joining in discussions that interest me. Two way interaction via discussions will sometimes lead to a mutual interest. When I find those I take the discussion private and then eventually to a phone call or if the other person is local, to a brief meeting for a cup of coffee or tea. I have several long distance networking partners whom I have done business with numerous times, all because we took the time to get to know each.
Blogs. I write this blog and have received a number of direct emails from readers. I attempt to answer every one of them personally and authentically. On more than one occasion the time I took to answer an email with my best advice has led to a sale or referral to someone else who I had written communication with. If you write a blog, encourage interactivity with your readers and take a tiny bit of time to help them with whatever the reason they write you. My business partner receives at least five emails a day from a column he writes for a national business information website. He writes about finance issues. He writes back to every one he can.
Make referrals, get referrals. I try to make solid referrals into my own business network at every opportunity I can. While I never make a referral expecting to get one in return, it often happens that way.
It has taken me several years to find the kind of networking strategy that works for me. I do use some social media, but the most effective networking for me is to build a connection to my network one person at a time and be generous with ability to help someone else out in my network.
Leslie Thacker is the managing partner in Austin Texas based Business Finance Solutions.
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I realize that this subject has little, if anything, to do with Finance & Accounting – subjects that I supposedly know a bit about.
During my tenure leading multiple marcom teams at AMD, we gained valuable insight through evaluating programs post execution. Some times we had great success meeting our program goals. Other times the wheels fell off and we quickly had to identify the problems and correct our course of action.
In the Austin area, you can attend specific networking functions morning, noon, and night. You can turn any other gathering (including standing in lines at grocery stores, movie theatres, bookstores or working out at a gym) into a networking opportunity. In short, what you can do is spend a lot of time and have little to show for it.