Referral marketing, or Business networking is essential for most businesses, especially start-ups and small to medium-sized businesses. Besides being an excellent way to promote your products, services and exchange referrals, it’s a way to develop and maintain equally advantageous relationships that can be great resources for expanding your business. It’s about connecting with other business owners for the purpose of supporting each other, sharing leads, ideas and information, which ultimately creates opportunities that help grow your market. Essentially it’s leveraging the potential of your network or contacts to generate more business.
Back in the day they called it rubbing elbows or schmoozing. Business owners attended networking events a few times a year, threw their business cards into a big fish bowl, listened to a few speeches, shook a few hands and hoped for the best.
Today, we can be sure that this is no longer the case. Business owners now find it absolutely necessary to be more proactive in their approach to networking. The Internet has significantly transformed the way we network. It has multiplied the competition for business owners, thus forcing them to find more creative ways to connect and stay connected.
Networking is not just about occasionally attending meet-and-greet events and exchanging business cards, but it’s reaching out and building relationships every day of your business life. Remember, networking is a two way street – the relationships you cultivate with other business people should be mutually beneficial. In order to get what you want, you must reciprocate.
Social Networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have made the business world a much smaller, more diverse and inclusive arena. As important and essential as attending networking events is, it’s equally important, if not more so, to be able to connect with like-minded business people that are far-reaching. The Internet has made it possible to form relationships and alliances with people outside of your immediate demographic.
As business owners and entrepreneurs we are no longer limited by location. With the Internet we now have the ability to tap into networks beyond what we once thought was possible.
There are many different types of networking groups with different rules and standards, and choosing one can be a chore for many busy business owners. Some are more structured and organized than others. Many of them require that members pay an annual fee to join. These fees can range anywhere from $500 to $5,000 or more. Many of these groups meet on a regular basis (once a week, or once a month). Usually they meet the same people and there may be guests occasionally. Some of these organizations are structured so that member attendance is mandatory. Members’ attendance to meetings, referral practices and interaction with other members are strictly monitored. They have strict guidelines for who can or cannot be a member and they only allow one person from each business classification or industry to join any group or chapter. Some groups only do networking events where anyone can attend with the hopes of acquiring new paying members.
It is not uncommon for business owners and entrepreneurs to be members of several different types of networking organizations at the same time – this expands their network and referral possibilities.
All networking organizations are not created equal, and no one is necessarily better than the other, however, they all have the same objective and that is to build new business relationships and generate business opportunities through referrals.
Before joining a business networking group, one should compare the benefits of several different organizations, as well as consider the cost-benefit ratio. Also, keep in mind that there are free networking organizations that offer the same benefits as paid organizations. Your choice of networking group or organization depends on your individual personality. Some people need the structure of knowing that attending regular meetings and events is mandatory and need to be part of a group with this type of framework in order to succeed, while others are more self-motivated and don’t necessarily need the “nudge”, and would prefer to self-determine how they use their networks.
Online business networking is changing the way we connect. Business owners are beginning to see the benefits of using the Internet to widen their contact base and expand their markets. With this new way of networking, business owners now have the ability to interact with networks well beyond their local chapter. They now have access to potential customers, competitors and suppliers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Successful networking for business is all about building relationships with the right people. A good place to start when looking to join a network is ISM Business Network.
Based in Ottawa, Canada, ISM Business Network combines traditional referral networking with the Internet, creating the potential of increasing your network of contacts exponentially. Membership to the network is FREE, and members enjoy a variety of benefits including building strategic alliances, listing in the ISM Business Network Directory, opportunities to be featured in the ISM Business Network newsletter, discounts and special promotions exclusive to ISM Network Members, access to business networking events, training and seminars.
ISM Business Network members will be connected to a community of outstanding businesses, acclaimed for their ability to deliver superior products and services, adherence to good business practices and positive standing in the community in which they operate.
ISM Business Network will be launching soon and is offering free advertising opportunities on the website to those who participate in early registration. You may use the following link to register: http://ismbusinessnetwork.com.
Category: Business Networking