18 May Strategic Networking – Could It Grow Your Business?
Anyone who’s talked to one of our team knows we love networking. It’s a fantastic tool for businesses to grow, make connections in the local community and find new suppliers and clients. At Starfish we’ve been members of several different networking groups, and have attended over 100 networking events in 2020 alone. So it’s safe to say, we’ve picked up a few tricks! And one of those ticks is something called ‘strategic networking’, and helps you make the most of your time in any networking meeting and get the maximum return possible. And since a business owners time is money, we want to make sure you network in the most efficient way!
What is Strategic Networking?
When you normally go networking, the natural thing to do is talk about what you do, and if someone is looking for your skills or knowledge, you approach them to offer support. You might even have a one to one, where it can be tempting to get the ball rolling and book an initial consultation with them. While there is nothing wrong with this direct approach (after all we all want more work), this is pursuing short-term goals for your business, and it means you’ll need to keep networking to keep up that flow of business in.
Strategic networking is more focused on the long-term goals, but building up partnerships, rather than just customers. So at each networking event, rather than seeking out the person you can start working with right away, look for the one who has other contacts that might fit your business. They are the person who serves similar clients to you, but offers a complimentary service to yours. The ones who are expanding and will need ongoing support, or who will be able to slot you into their own offerings for a regular flow of work. This approach, combined with the idea of generosity in networking (after all, the more you give, the more you get in return) means you’re more likely to have long-term success. By investing time and effort into making strategic partnerships, you’re securing a more diverse and permanent revenue source for your business, and helping support another business’s growth.
Making Strategic Connections
So the big question then is, how do you build strategic connections? And more to the point, how do you recognise what might be a strategic connection so that you can nurture it? Some of it is definitely down to experience and gut instinct, but there are 3 key things you can do to improve your network:
Build an Industry Network: If you’re a B2B business, then getting to know other B2B businesses should be pretty high on your list of priorities since you are likely to have some clients in common, but the more specific you can get the better. For example, if we were at a networking event, we might meet a business coach. Business coaches can benefit a lot from our VA services, but they also have their own clients who could benefit as well. So by building that relationship instead of just chasing the direct work, we could end up with a partner who refers a lot of their clients to us (and vice versa). For businesses in the B2C space, the key is to remember that not every business is a competitor – they’re a good contact for you. Whether that’s sending smaller jobs you don’t have time for to them, or creating a network that helps you provide a bigger, better service overall. Either way, spend some time connecting with people in the same business type as you.
Support Growing Businesses: when a business is growing, the owner often looks to take on more staff, work with freelancers, and will need more support from other services – so never discount smaller businesses. While a business might start out being able to handle their social media or their invoicing in-house, when they grow they may need to outsource that so that they can focus on a new area of their business. All growing businesses are opportunities for collaboration, so making and nurturing those connections can pay off in the long run.
Invest in Teamwork: As is a bit of a theme in this blog, the key to good networking success is teamwork. When you’re in a room, don’t just look for potential customers – look for partnerships as well. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you might want to team up with a copywriter, so that you can offer a complete package of images and text to your clients and make their marketing efforts more successful. Both designer and copywriter can refer work to each other, and even create dedicated, high-quality packages to market including both of your business, attracting more work for everyone.
Hopefully now you can see that networking is more than just a way to meet other business owners – it can be an incredibly powerful tool to grow your business, if you take a more strategic approach. If you’d like to chat about strategic networking more, or want to talk to us about developing a partnership, we would love to hear from you. Just get in touch with the team today for your free, no-strings-attached consultation.