Many people involved in the running or setting up a business, charitable organisation or social enterprise will have been repeatedly told about the necessity and great benefits of “networking.“
Of course, in many instances this is simply people trying to recruit others into one network marketing scheme or another. Many of these are quite legitimate, while in certain schemes the riches promised are almost impossible to achieve for most people.
However, the networking many of us should be involved with is much more simple and effective. The key to this effective networking is not to necessarily focus on recruiting clients/customers or even funders or donors. What we should concentrate on is first of all establishing links with people who can benefit from what ‘you’ can do for them, and secondly meet people you personally have something in common with, whether it be the football team you support, country of birth, hobbies or political affiliations. Let us consider just a few of the benefits:
• If you can be of benefit to someone then they have a vested interest in keeping the contact alive;
• In many (not all) cases these recipients of your goodwill will want to do something for you;
• If cultivated properly these same people can turn into paying customers or clients;
• If you have other things in common staying in contact becomes natural;
• Personal contacts account for a very high proportion of how contracts and business deals are awarded;
• Personal contacts and people ‘owing you a favour’ can be some of the most powerful forms of advertising and marketing.
The question to ask now, “how does one go about networking?” A few of the things you can do are?
1. Join trade organisations or umbrella groups
2. Attend industry/sector meetings or events
3. go to trade shows
4. respond to blogs and online discussion groups
5. Attend training events
6. Join specific networking groups (many online).
So clearly this form of networking is part of effectively capacity building and must be taken seriously by any organisation wishing to expand it’s horizons.
Of course the benefits of the internet and social media mean that another and more expansive type of networking is now possible. Enabling access to many more people without having to even leave the bedroom.
The advantages and possibilities are tremendous and have been well documented but with that also comes the disadvantage of competing with a lot more people and having to stand out from the crowd. To be successful means moving people from passive social media engagement to a point of interaction where they give you at least their name and email. It is up to you then to nurture that contact to a point of them becoming a bona fide client or customer.
More about this in a future post.