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Marketing Through Networking

Marketing through networking

There seems to be a lot of confusion among new business owners as to what, exactly, networking IS. The most common misconception is that it is a whole new bunch of people to market to…..

WRONG!!!

Networking consists of two facets:

  1. Getting to know people who have business experience and business knowledge or assets, which they are willing to use for mutual benefit, or which they are willing to share in the interests of kindness. You network in trade associations, business professional forums, MLM groups, and other gatherings of business people, to learn from one another, and to find prospects for joint ventures and collaborations.
  2. Participating as an expert in forums for people who need knowledge that you have. You do this to build relationships with prospective clients, but you HELP, and give good advice FIRST, and marketing is only a secondary (abstract) facet of that. You never market to them, you never advertise to them, you just be helpful, be a real person, and drop your signature line as an afterthought in case they want to contact you professionally.

You need to choose the networking venues with your purpose in mind. If you market to either one of these, you’ll fail! If you spam them, you’ll get kicked out. If you try to sell to people who are selling the same thing you are, you’ll not make any headway.

When people talk about how good a marketing tool networking is, they are not referring to some quick fix. They are talking about learning, developing relationships, collaborating, getting great ideas, and helping people who eventually become a customer. But the helping, the collaboration, and the giving happens FIRST.

If you just advertise to your networks, you’ll not have good results. It sounds faster, but is actually a dead end. The seemingly slower course DOES take time! But it pays off in solid and lasting dividends that are SO worth it.

I have met some people on forums that have truly benefited my life. At its simplest, we traded links. Some people put links to my new sites on their sites just because they loved the content, without asking for a return link. Someone on a forum asked me to be a guest speaker for their radio show – this was many months after I began to participate in the forum. I learned some new marketing and web design skills from conversations on one forum. I got a couple of web design contracts from another forum, but I did not ONCE offer outright to build a site for anyone! In fact, the only time I mentioned that I built sites was when someone asked me directly what I did to earn, or in a sig line (and my signature line varies with the topic). I have gained many lifelong customers from forums, but it was from polite and kind offers of help, not from advertising. I was offered the chance to participate as co-author in a viral eBook, given the opportunity to moderate a forum that helped to set me up as an expert, and I have been publicly praised for my expertise on forums. I have gained confidence to move forward with a new site venture from comments from other business owners on forums, and I have developed many personal friends.

Now, some forums are too chatty for me. I don’t need to hear that someone’s dog got sick, and I don’t need to read forwarded emails on my forums. I want information and conversation that helps me to succeed. Friendship woven into it is fine, but I don’t need the bulk of the mail to be frivolous topics. So I choose forums that don’t waste my time. Otherwise I could spend all day chatting and answering emails instead of working. That would not help me.

I choose forums that deal with topics that I need to learn, or that I can help someone else learn. I choose my trade associations and other networking venues the same way. They have to offer me something of value, and they have to have the potential to interact with other business owners in a way that benefits my business, instead of wasting my time or money. Networking, in that context, is very powerful.

Is it fast? No. Nothing truly good ever is! And it’s a bit of work, but no so much that it drowns you. Offering a sincere and helpful bit of information takes just 5-10 minutes.

Is it worth it? On every level, yes.

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