"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you." -- Dale Carnegie
Last week's article generated a lot of interest from business owners and marketers.
A number of readers wanted to know more about how to effectively use networking to get more customers.
This is not surprising because I have heard so many people complaining about not getting any customers after joining networking groups or attending networking events.
This is a valid complaint. However, there are some misconceptions about how networking brings you business.
First, we need to understand how marketing and the buying processes are changing. Before the start of the industrial age a century ago, all you needed to do was produce a good product, like the proverbial mousetrap, and people would beat a path to your doorstep.
With the industrial age came improvements in production processes. Mass production became mainstream. Products began to flood the markets.
To persuade consumers to buy more, firms began to advertise. Mass media like radio, television and newspapers enabled marketers to reach millions of consumers with their messages. The better advertisers got more sales, whether selling physical goods or intangible services.
Buyers at companies were similarly swayed in their procuring decisions by preferring the better advertisers. Fast forward to 2013 and the picture has changed.
A recently published research report by Hinge Marketing (www.hingeresearch.com) sheds some very interesting insights into how buyers' changing habits are affecting the dynamics of marketing, especially in services industries.
Remember that the principles of marketing do not change; it is the ways in which those principles are applied which change. Two of the reports cover the buying habits of buyers in companies that purchase services in two wide areas:
technology; and financial and accounting services. The research excluded those organisations that must follow established procurement procedures, such as government departments and large corporations.
According to the Hinge report, when searching for alternative suppliers of services, between 70% and 87% of buyers in the two services sectors turn first to their friends or colleagues.
In other words, they first turn to the people in their network. Ten percent search online.
The remainder, a small minority, follows the traditional methods of looking for suppliers: in trade and business publications, at trade shows or conferences and reviewing filed marketing materials left by suppliers.
Now if you are in the service business, you definitely need to embrace the changing dynamics.
You can no longer rely on old methods of attracting customers. Giving out business cards, sending out brochures, placing adverts and cold calling are no longer enough to get you more customers continuously.
As we have seen that most buyers first ask people in their network, you need to work on increasing the numbers in your network. This is an active process, which requires a lot of work. That is why it is called net-working, not net-sitting, net-emailing or net-phoning.
The objective of your networking should be to build relationships and make friends.
If you approach networking with the objective of selling, you will be disappointed. Sales will come when the people in your network trust you and like you enough to recommend your services when they are asked by others in their own network. This may not happen overnight or even for months. However, you can make it happen faster.
You start by doing for others what you want them to do for you. Why not recommend someone in your network when you know a friend is looking for a service? Better still, you can anticipate what others in your network need and help them to get it.
In his book Give and Take, Adam Grant, a management professor at Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania in the US, gives lots of tips on how you can get ahead by giving. One of his tips is to dedicate time for five minute favours, which are favours you can do very quickly, such as an email introduction.
Dedicate a specific time for these favours, such as Friday afternoons or 10 minutes at lunchtime.
Sustainable giving stems naturally from activities you enjoy. "Giving is hard to sustain if it constantly feels like a chore," Grant says. Think about what you love doing, such as connecting two people together, sharing your knowledge, or mentoring others. Find ways to help that resonate with your values and interests.
Giving will show others that you are interested in helping them. That will help you build relationships and grow your network. The more people there are in your network, the more likely you are to be recommended and get customers. It beats all the others ways of getting customers combined.
Try that and let me know how it works for you. I will be grateful if you email me your thoughts. Best wishes in accelerating your growth.
Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org visit: http://smebusinesslink.com