Business networking is a fantastic marketing tool for start-ups, small, medium and large businesses alike.
Whether it’s for building your contact list, identifying referral partners or sourcing and getting introductions to specific potential clients, networking is the key!
For a business just starting out, business networking is a great way to find those all-important first customers. For small businesses, networking is the best way to build your list of contacts. For medium-sized businesses it can be used to target and seek out companies with great synergy or businesses with a similar client base, as these make great referral partners. For larger companies business networking can be an excellent tool to find the right person in the right position that you need to speak to. Someone always knows someone who you need to contact!
In fact, 97% of all businesses suggest that customer referrals are an important source of new business. However, only 3% of businesses have any form of strategy to generate customer referral based business.
The benefits of business networking for start-up businesses
Lots of new businesses tend to be attracted to networking events that have lots of people attending.
The popular thinking behind this is that there will be lots of people there so you’re more likely to find lots of new customers.
What actually happens in this situation is that because nobody knows each other, lots of small talk is exchanged with only the odd discussion of potential new business. However, because nobody knows, or more importantly, trusts each other, discussions of new business rarely lead to actual new business.
Therefore, it is often the case that business owners who have networked in this environment are left with the feeling that business networking simply doesn’t work. Their experience of networking amongst lots of people, who they don’t know, never seems to lead to any new business. The reason for this? Credibility and trust are missing.
This is where BNI is different. Members attend important business networking events every week, they have 1-2-1 meetings to get to know each other properly, they hear testimonials being given and they see a presentation every week from other members. It is all of these things that lead to credibility and trust, which in turn leads to members having the confidence to pass business opportunities amongst each other.
Let us pose a question: Would you give your custom to someone who you don't know? Or, would you prefer to give your custom to someone who you trusted? The answer is fairly obvious. Yet why do small business owners network in environments where people have no idea who they are, but they still expect to generate lots of new customers?
The benefits of business networking for established small businesses
Medium-sized businesses that already have a stable client base and who are looking to expand can also make excellent use of business networking. In this situation, the focus is on trying to find more of the 'right type' of customers.
Once you've identified what your best customer 'looks like' you can set about a strategy for finding them. Very often, the best way to find them is to figure out who the other businesses are that already have them as customers!
For example, it may be that you're an office furniture company looking for opportunities to supply furniture.
It would therefore be very profitable for you to identify a builder or shop-fitter who specialises in office refurbishments. It stands to reason that both you and the shop-fitter will have similar clients and will be able to refer potential customers to each other.
And this is where BNI excels! In each networking group only one representative from a particular industry is allowed to attend. This means that as the group builds its membership, there are no competitors in the room to contend for new business with. The working synergies between members start to develop as you can see from the example above with the office furniture supplier and the shop-fitter. Once these members have got to know and trust each other, fantastic working relationships begin to develop and they go on to pass each other lots of business opportunities every week!
The benefits of business networking for medium and large companies
So let's consider how large companies can benefit from business networking. If we make the assumption that large companies tend to do business with similar sized companies, the challenge is often how to locate the right person.
For example; let's assume you wanted to contact the Head of Marketing at Coca-Cola. You could employ a telesales team to try and contact them, but often they will be met with some resistance, usually the Gatekeeper! Alternatively you could attend a well-established business networking group and ask if anyone knows Jo Blogs, the Head of Marketing at Coca-Cola.
It is amazing how many people know the person you're looking for, or failing that, they know someone who is in contact with the person you need to speak to. Trying to do this at a business networking event where people have never met each other before is unlikely to work. But attending a BNI meeting where people know and trust each other produces very different results. Even if no-one in the actual meeting knows the Head of Marketing at Coca-Cola, they are all able to ask their contacts if they know Coca-Cola’s Head of Marketing and request an introduction for you.
This type of targeted approach to business networking only works amongst groups of people who know and trust each other. It is based on the Givers Gain® concept: if I help you, you're likely to help me in return.
Business networking works
Whether you're a small, medium or large company, networking can help to build your business, whether you’re a Business to Business operation, or you sell to consumers at large (Business to Consumer). However, it's important to understand the different types of business networking events that are available to you. BNI offers a very focused, organised and efficient method to help build businesses based on its members getting to know, like and trust each other.
After all, we've all heard the saying; "It's not what you know... It's who you know." Then add to that a few more ingredients, like:
• Givers Gain®
• Customer referrals
• No competitors
• Structured meetings
• 32+ years of experience
• Works in boom or recession
• Currently in over 69 countries
It's no wonder that BNI is the best business networking establishment available today!
Subscribe to our free BNI newsletter here for valuable tips to help you build a better business.