For many businesses, networking is a great way to make contacts, request referrals, learn new information and secure new clients.
Indeed, some very large and very successful companies have been built as a result of little more than consistent and energetic networking by their founders and employees.
So, how then can you utilise the power of networking to get more clients for your own business?
In truth, there are many ways.
Several of these revolve around catching the attention of the people you meet; making them like you and want to do business with you.
In other words, they require you to be confident, outgoing, engaging and blessed with formidable social skills.
Unfortunately, not all of us (myself especially!) have been gifted with these talents.
While there's no doubt that learning how to better connect with people and entice them to take an interest in your business through deft social manoeuvring is a worthwhile activity, I am the last person who ought to be giving advice on this topic!
Instead, I like to focus on something myself and other SEO nerds are good at; marketing.
Not marketing in the traditional sense, but instead in the sense of how and when to present yourself.
Let's illustrate this by using a marketer's methodology to think strategically about networking. What should our approach be?
I'd suggest using a process similar to the one below:
Step 1: Identify Your Target Audience
Who at the networking event is your ideal customer? Make a note of everyone there who fits this bill.
If there's no-one there who is in your target audience, then you're probably at the wrong networking event, and should work towards attending more relevant ones in future.
Step 2: Define 2-3 Very Clear Benefits You Can Provide This Target Audience With
How do you help your ideal customers? Think of 3 ways. Make them good.
Typical ways to help individuals and companies include; saving them time, saving them effort, making them more money and allowing them to focus more on the key aspects of their business.
Ideally, the three benefits you can provide to your target audience will each include all of the above.
Step 3: Craft A Short, Concise Message Which Communicates These Benefits To The Audience, And Really 'Sells The Value' Of What You Do
Make your pitch short and sweet! People's attention spans are limited. And don't be salesly, that will likely put people off.
Instead, in a calm, but enticing, way, simply explain to people how you can help them, and be sure to place the value you provide your clients with, right at the front and centre of your pitch. Build everything around it.
Your window of opportunity is short, so use it as best you can to sell all of the amazing things you can do for your audience; things which will save them time and effort, and make them loads more money!
And always, always remember that when it comes to business, people don't care about you, they care about what you can do for them.
After all, you'll be meeting entrepreneurs and business professionals who are seeking to grow their companies, not donate to charity.
So, if you want them to invest their time and money in you by hiring you to do work for them, then you'll need to make it worth their while, and convince them that you can deliver a healthy return on their investment.
Step 4: Deliver This Message To Your Audience
Once you've got your pitch short and to the point, and just dripping with all the value you can provide your target audience with, practice it, get it 'match tight' and tweak it until your audience will be positively salivating when they hear about all the great things you can do for them, and all the money you'll help them make.
Then, go and get involved with everyone at the networking event in your target audience. Engage them, say hello, make small talk, ask them what they do, and wait for them to give you the all important signal to launch into your pitch...
As soon as they say something along the lines of, 'So what exactly do you do?', then your chance has arrived, and it's time to clearly, calmly and precisely begin...
Once you've delivered it to a few people, assess the reaction to your pitch.
Did your audience like it, or did it put them off? Tweak it over time until you're getting the best response possible.
Then, go and network some more!
In other words then, at networking events try to do the following in turn;
- Identify the people there who work for companies in your target audience
- Define 2-3 things you can do which provide massive benefits to those companies
- Create a short message which communicates all these benefits, while stressing the value and the return on investment you can offer
- Share this message with as many people in your target audience as possible, and tweak it based on the response it generates until you're getting the reaction you want
- When you reach this point, go and network some more!
The most important aspect of this process (amongst many others) is to define your goods and services in terms of the value they provide to your target audience.
Let's think about it this way, while using myself as an example.
As someone who works in digital marketing and specialises in SEO, which of the following two 'elevator pitches' is likely to produce the best results for me when I deliver them to my target audience?
'Hi, my name is Alex and I work in digital marketing. Services I provide include SEO, email marketing, social media marketing and conversion rate optimisation.'
'Hi, my name is Alex and I work with companies, learn about what they do and identify what their ideal customers search for online when they're looking to buy what my clients sell.
I then optimise client websites and improve their rankings for these searches, so they show up right in front of their target audience just as they're looking to buy.
I can also help people convert more of their website visitors into leads and sales, to squeeze as much value as possible from the increase in traffic I can provide.'
If you said Pitch 2, then congratulations, you're a winner!
So then, please try to bear the following in mind at all times:
It is vital to describe the goods and services you provide in a way which sells to your target audience the key ways in which you can provide them with substantial benefits.
This is the absolutely key takeaway from this article, and if you absorb it and put it into action, this simple piece of advice will help you to secure more new clients, more repeat business and more referrals, not just from networking, but from almost every channel you use to promote your business!