Like most things in life, our success rests on our relationships. Commerce in particular is so tightly tied to the ability to make and maintain business relationships that it’s hard to imagine anyone ignoring it! Refuse to reach out and your business will not succeed.
One great way to open the door to tons of mutually beneficial connections is networking. If you are hesitant or new to the idea of business networking, take another look at how it might benefit your company.
Why Business Networking?
Some leaders walk out of networking events frustrated that they didn’t get what they wanted — leads, referrals, and opportunities. They dismiss organized events as unnecessary and distracting. There are those, however, who leave feeling like significant progress was made and their futures brightened.
What creates the difference? It’s how each attendee answers the “why” question. It’s the difference between givers and takers. Arrive as a taker and you’ll always be disappointed. Come in as a giver and the rules of the game tip in your favor.
Why is networking important? Because it’s your opportunity to listen, to offer partnership, to match your strengths with others’ needs and to communicate your passion. A business community based on authenticity built on equal value is a healthy, interdependent force for good.
Networking and Strategic Partnerships
One of the best results of networking events is the strategic partnership. What is it? It’s an agreement to cooperate with another business entity in ways that mutually benefit you both. Examples might be partnering with financial services, technology vendors or shipping companies. Marketing messages can intertwine and join forces to build two reputations for the price of one!
You see strategic partnerships expressed in sports marketing all the time — “Official Breakfast Cereal of the National Croquet League.” Shipping companies such as FedEx or UPS attach their reputation to an established brand by being their distributor of choice. Those partnerships didn’t develop on their own by chance!
Growing a strategic partnership takes time and communication but can benefit both organizations in ways going it alone can’t. It also takes creativity and a sense of cooperation that won’t happen without networking.
The Morning After
If you’re not getting the most out of attendance at networking events, it might be because you’ve forgotten a critical piece: what you do AFTER the event. Make no mistake. You will definitely forget who you talked to at the event, so take time to consolidate your findings ASAP after a networking event. Enter names and next steps in your database of choice. Compose emails, connect on LinkedIn or other social media, or simply make a call to the person you met and offer to buy them lunch to continue your conversation with them.
Is it worth it in terms of revenue?
There are many ways to gauge success in terms of numbers during and after the event, but there will always be returns on investment that are simply too under-the-radar to pick up. A positive impression on another business owner may not really pay off for months or years. That said, you can justify your attendance by careful tracking of a few key metrics over time.
This is where a good customer relationship management (CRM) platform is invaluable. Once you enter a contact, it tracks them through your entire journey with them, including revenue generated, with the ability to trace it back to an encounter with them at a networking event.
Social media is another way to get an idea of how profitable your encounters were. Did you break into new circles of contacts because of posts or engagements with your social media channels? While you can use numbers to describe this, it may be difficult to capture in short timeframes.
Cost per lead acquisition is another approach. Counting handshakes doesn’t mean anything if you can’t see some kind of uptick in leads or revenue over time that points in some way to your networking efforts. Are there bumps in the trend lines that you can correlate to networking?
As usual there’s a lot more to say about networking. Larek Point Consulting believes in the value of building relationships between businesses leading to relationships with customers and lifting overall profitability for everyone. Schedule a consultation with our team today.