I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people's efforts than 100% of my own efforts. –John D. Rockefeller
The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity. –Keith Ferrazzi
These are just two of many quotes about the importance of connecting with others, or as we call it in the business world, networking. Without a doubt, networking is one of the best (and easiest) ways to get people working for you to grow your business at little or no additional cost to you. That’s why I’m always surprised when I meet people who say they don’t like networking. Some of the excuses I hear are: I don’t want to bother people; If someone helps me out—I’m obligated to them; It’s awkward; It feels forced; I’m too busy; I’m too shy; and I hate rejection. When I ask them how many other free employees they have, I get their attention.
There doesn’t have to be anything forced or awkward about networking. With practice, it becomes as routine as brushing your teeth, or checking your Facebook page. And you may be surprised to learn that, while it is a proven way to expand your business, it is also a great way to help others. It is time to put networking to work for you.
People sometimes think networking means signing up for a bunch of corporate-type seminars, but that is just one way of doing it. Networking just means creating groups of people with like-minded interests and goals and communicating regularly with them.
Networking just means creating groups of people with like-minded interests and goals and communicating regularly with them.
At its core, networking builds synergistic relationships. You’ve got something to offer, the other person has something to offer—put the two of you together and results are exponentially greater. Simple math: 2 + 2 = 5.
Synergy on Steroids
I’m betting you’ve heard of these companies: Amway, Herbalife, Avon, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay Cosmetics. They all utilize the principle of Geometric Growth Through Duplication, in which they send out a powerful “message” about their company that one friend can’t wait to share with another, who shares with another and so on. All along the way, there’s a revenue stream associated with that sharing. You can apply this same concept to your business. By creating a powerful “network” of others who enthusiastically talk up your services (and maybe even get an incentive for doing so), you’ll replicate the same advantages that the biggest networking companies on the planet reap every day.
Here are just a few examples of networking ideas to get you started.
Face-to-face engagement. Invite existing clients and a few of their friends to an after-work party or educational seminar. Get involved with fundraising and philanthropic endeavors for your favorite charity and bring your flyers to one of their events (with permission).
Marketing. Drop off business cards and service menus to local businesses within your demographic such as hair salons, fitness centers, doctors’ offices, etc. and offering to display their business cards at your spa.
Online engagement. Create a social media platform to connect with potential clients and other businesses in your area. Encouraging your audience to share your posts or special offers with their friends and beyond.
Bartering. Trade your professional services with someone else’s with the agreement that both of you will help promote the other. For example, provide a spa service to a professional photographer in exchange for beautiful photos of your spa that you display online (with a shout-out to the photographer). When you’re continually engaging with new people in and around your industry, all of whom fall within your targeted demographic, you’ll continually expand your customer base.
Paying It Forward
There is a misconception that networking is all about promoting one's own business. To be sustainable, networking must be based on the question, “How can I use my resources to help others?” rather than, “What’s in it for me?” Let’s be honest—everyone avoids the person who only promotes themselves. When you think of networking as an opportunity to share what you’ve learned and benefited from, you open yourself up to the same from others. Give and take, paying it forward—whatever you want to call it, it exists.
Other Benefits of Networking
Not only is networking one of the lowest- or no-cost forms of marketing, it saves you significant time, effort and sweat equity. You’re putting dozens, maybe hundreds, even thousands of people on your payroll except you’re not actually paying them. They’re helping you because you’re helping them. The side benefits of networking include making new friends, building mutually beneficial relationships and oh yeah, gaining more free time to do the things you want to do outside of business. And what could be better than that?
Practice Makes Perfect
Don’t wait for the perfect time, place or event to start networking. Today is perfect enough. Start by asking yourself how you can help others. Perhaps there’s a mom’s group in your neighborhood that would love some discount coupons for a pampering spa service, or you could demo your signature facial at their next meeting. Call up your favorite charity and ask for a mention in their next newsletter in exchange for a donated portion of each service you provide their readers. Reach out. Stay in Touch. See the amazing results you will get from networking.
Top Three Tips for Networking That Works
1. Be consistent with your efforts. Put networking on your calendar just like you would any other appointment. For example, you’ll visit 10 local hair salons to drop off business cards on Monday. On Tuesday, you’ll post an invitation to a wine and cheese party with facial demos on Facebook, etc. If you get a “No, thanks” from someone, schedule a follow-up in one month.
2. Track your results. If you’re dropping off business cards, count them first. If you host a networking party, make note of new clients gained from it. Be sure you and/or your employees ask every new client how they heard about you. Write down their response and create a simple spreadsheet for them.
3. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. If someone sends you a new client, call them up and thank them personally. Write a heartfelt note or e-mail or buy them a gift card for coffee. Even better, do your best to send them a new client, too.