Many of the business owners I have met with during this past year have told me that traditional networking does not work for them, and as a result they are seeking alternatives in an effort to generate more leads, referrals and new business.
Some networking groups tend to be little more than social clubs where friends hang-out for breakfast, lunch or after-hour drinks, rather than venues to build business relationships, share referrals, and establish new partnerships and alliances that will enable them to successfully grow their respective businesses.
Are you stuck in the friendly networking trap?
If you are stuck in the friendly networking trap and want to move beyond traditional networking to obtain more referrals and accelerate your business growth, here are some alternatives to consider or put more emphasis on to balance your marketing and lead generation efforts:
- Cold calling. We all hate it, but every solo entrepreneur and small business owner should be doing it. Still one of the best ways to target your prospecting efforts to your ideal customer profile.
- Industry or trade associations. If your business has a vertical industry focus, becoming an active member of an industry or trade association group could be a better route to quality leads and position you with the right audience at the decision maker level.
- Become a subject matter expert or thought leader. Write an e-book, book and/or articles, and get published to help raise your personal profile and brand within your industry or market niche.
- Local sponsorships – i.e. community event, open house, ribbon cutting, golf tournament, etc. Where possible, make sure you have a booth, banner and/or speaking opportunity to spotlight your business and broaden your exposure.
- Participation at industry trade shows, seminars, workshops, webinars, etc. Participate as an exhibitor, keynote or plenary speaker and become a key member of the events planning committee. A compliment to item #3 above.
- Referral/Rewards Program. Offer your clients, partners and suppliers incentives such as discounts, gift or cash awards for quality leads that convert to new sales.
- Launch a blog and post regularly. On average, businesses that have a blog get 55% more traffic to their web sites, and more traffic = more leads = more sales.
- Join a mastermind group. A mastermind group is an excellent way to connect with other like-minded business professionals who are passionate about their own personal and professional growth, and helping others achieve success.
I do not recommend that business owners abandon their networking activities. If done properly, traditional networking is a great way to obtain referrals, build new partnerships and alliances, and acquire new clients. However, I do encourage a balanced approach where effective networking is just one method to be utilized to successfully market and grow your business.
Beyond traditional networking, you should have at least 4-5 additional ways to generate more leads, referrals and new business. The critical factor is selecting the appropriate marketing pillars for your particular business situation. Contact a sales and marketing coach if you need assistance in this area.
Please let me hear from you if you have any examples of alternatives to traditional networking that have produced great results for your business.
Good luck and good selling!
COPYRIGHT © 2010-11 John Carroll