Boss Lady

Five ways to network your way to business growth

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No matter where you are in the world, chances are in your career you’ve encountered a situation where it’s been about who you know, not what you know. And if you own a business, it’s definitely about who you know.

As a business owner myself (I’ve been running Western Australian PR and Communications agency Hunter Communications for almost four years), networking has been pivotal to growing my business. It’s not about meeting people who are potential clients or customers, but simply letting them know you, and your business, exist. By doing so, you are exponentially expanding the potential for your business to attract new clients.

As a consultancy, a majority of our business growth has been the result of word-of-mouth. Often, new clients heard about us from a trusted acquaintance long before they got in touch. At the time, they did not need or had not budgeted for the services we offer, but as soon as they did, they thought of us.

So, how do you maximise your ability to make the most of who you know?

Don’t be pushy

No one likes being on the end of sales pitch. Networking isn’t about telling everyone who will listen (or pretend to listen) about what you sell. Be genuine in your approach and build rapport first. If you’re asked about your business, by all means give your elevator pitch, but you want to avoid sounding desperate. It’s a bit like dating – sure, you might hope to one day settle down with a fruitful relationship but proposing on the first date probably won’t get you there and will, in fact, send you in the opposite direction.

Leave your ego at the door

Similarly, be genuine in your conversations with others. Don’t just hear them but listen and respond with input that progresses the conversation or in some way adds value to it. This is all part of building rapport and showing others you understand them and, by extension, their businesses. At the end of the day, people yearn to be heard and simply listening to others is one of the easiest ways to establish trust and rapport.

Choose your networking opportunities wisely

There are countless opportunities to network, but if you say “yes” to everything, you’ll end up burnt out and stripped of precious time you could have spent building your business in other ways.

These days, I prefer to be selective in the events I attend. I like smaller networking opportunities that facilitate conversation. Often, the events I choose to attend are a little more niche. For example, I attend smaller functions for women in business and for industries we work a lot with. It increases the chance of meeting like-minded people you can naturally connect with, but also, they’re generally a lot more stimulating to attend given you’ve got an existing interest in its nature.

Also, don’t limit “networking” to stuffy corporate sundowners where you don’t know anyone at all -accepting a lunch invitation from a contact with a couple of other businesspeople you’ve not met is potentially just as valuable a networking opportunity as any other.

Reciprocate

If you’re expecting someone to refer others to you, or come to you themselves, establish the relationship by returning the favour. If you see a genuine reason to connect one person with another, pass on their contact details. It’s the little things that let others know you respect their work and want to see them succeed too.

Follow up

If you read about something that affects someone’s industry or meet a mutual connection, make an excuse to touch base with your contacts. A brief email is sufficient to remind them that you’re thinking about them and their industry it will also give them a sense that you care! That care factor will be helpful next time that person is asked for a recommendation that your business might fit the bill for.

For me networking is a valuable part of my marketing my company. Many of my clients come from referrals or from someone who knows about me and the work I do, and who just happened to be in the same room as someone who needs a company just like mine!

About Nicole Moody

nicolem@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Nicole Moody is widely recognised as one of the most senior and experienced communication professionals in Perth, Western Australia. She is the Managing Director of Perth-based Hunter Communications. Her extensive career has involved working in Australia and London in the highest levels of public relations, government and journalism. With her passion for communication and a commitment to achieving outstanding results for clients, Nicole has built her client base at Hunter to include some of Western Australia’s biggest brands and companies. Along with managing strategic communications issues, Nicole has advised on numerous ‘front page’ media issues, crisis management and recovery, and brand reputation and management. A highly experienced and results-driven communications manager, Nicole brings the same energy and passion that has made her a multi award-winner and leader in her field to every job and every client.

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