Business owner seeks new client, must be happy to share

In a new series of regular posts Clare Tucker gets back to marketing basics with a no-nonesense guide for small businesses. This week: networking.

16th September 2009 at 8:23 am

When it comes to business-to-business marketing, particularly for those of us in the SME space, relationships really do count. Love or hate networking, you really should include it as a key marketing tool. But why?

The simple fact is people buy from people. So, the wider your network of connections, the greater your referral business will be.

It’s the ripple effect. If you provide a great service for a client then they’ll recommend you to their contacts and so on. However, building a network isn’t as easy as you might think.

It takes time and effort and you have to have 100% confidence you can deliver a great product/service, otherwise it could all backfire.

In the same way good service has a positive effect on building your referrals, one negative experience can seriously damage your reputation and erode all your hard work in building those important new connections.

The good news is networking delivers immediate results and provides a cost effective marketing tool. From my own experience, I find the sales cycle is often much shorter when leads are acquired through networking.

Attending just one event can generate a golden nugget of a new prospect that turns into a customer far more quickly than other methods.

The reason for this is you’ve met someone who already acknowledges a need. You don’t have to spend time trying to convince them they require your product or service as you usually do with ‘cold’ marketing such as direct mail.

Secondly, you’ve already made a ‘connection’ with that person, so your barriers have been removed.

Networking comes in many forms.  It isn’t just the pre-organised ‘networking event’ that so many fear or hate. Informal networking is just as powerful.

Meeting people in your building, making new contacts at meetings, socialising, friends and family, they’re all forms of networking. It’s also about giving to receive.

I go out of my way to proactively connect my clients, suppliers and trusted contacts to each other. I sing their praises to others and even have a page on my website specifically for this purpose.

There’s nothing in it for me, but my contacts appreciate that I’m promoting them and driving opportunities their way.  In return I hope they’ll do the same for me!

So give networking a go, the traditional face-to-face networking that is. Combine it with building your online network and you’ll have developed one very powerful, cost-effective marketing tool.

Clare Tucker

Clare Tucker is the Managing Director of Sterling Marketing Management and a Chartered Marketer. She has spent over 20 years in the business services sector and the past 12 years as a marketer. Clare is passionate about nurturing start ups and small businesses by advising them on and implementing affordable, realistic marketing strategies

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