Most of you reading this know that I write and speak about business networking a lot! This week alone I will be speaking in front of business owners in both Essex and South Wales.
An awful lot of what I talk about in networking is really tangible. Subjects like the 40/60 second introduction round, how to follow up with people and how to start a conversation is pretty easy to understand and, in my opinion, pretty simple to get better at if you choose to.
But there is a subject which is less tangible and will take a bit of explaining. And the best way I can describe it is that your stock has a value in networking, and you are pretty much in control of whether that stock is rising or falling.
Your stock value isn’t based on just one measurement. If it were simply the size of your network, or how many networking events you attend every month, that would be simple. But it is more than that, and less tangible as a result.
Your stock value is certainly made up of the above, as well as other easy to measure elements. But it is the less tangible part that really interests me, and that is how likely people are to refer business to you, or do business with you. The “Meet-Like-Know-Trust” doesn’t finish once you have got to “Trust”. In my opinion, the process continues and the trust continues to grow. But it takes you to work it and make sure you are doing the right things, constantly, consistently.
Results from networking can be exponential the longer you work at it, and I think this element is sometimes lost on people. It isn’t just about the more you do it, but it is about the more you put into it. I know that is a cliche, but in this case it works. My speciality is face to face networking, but I believe the same is true of social media, and other forms of marketing too.
So these are the things, in my opinion, you can do to keep your stock value rising.
Attend networking meetings – yes I know that sounds obvious, but networking groups are fluid, new people join all the time and, sadly, people leave too. If you’re not there, you’re simply not visible and, no matter how high profile you were once, that profile will diminish.
Get busy on social media – and don’t just autotweet. Be part of the community. Engage. Be there and be present when people engage with you. Choose your platforms and go for it. If you’re not confident, there are plenty of people who can help and advise.
Do the things that the majority don’t do – go to other meetings, do the 4Sight or speaking slot, get onto the team and make a success of it, be active wherever the community is active. The real opportunity is that most people won’t, so you can stand out by being in the minority who do.
Be the first to give value in every relationship – whether that means actively looking for referrals and opportunities for others, helping people with advice and support, being part of your local networking team, whatever it is, try to be the first to bring value every time. This is probably the least tangible aspect of this and something which I know I fall down on sometimes, but I try every time.
Be visible on the internet – this isn’t just about having a website anymore. This is about having a website that genuinely talks to your crowd. This is somewhere else you can bring value, by writing articles, making videos or podcasts, learning to understand content and keeping up to date with that very fast moving subject. The articles I write are intended to give value and intended to keep me and my website visible out there.
Make sure your business is easy to understand – people will only refer to you or do business with you if they actually know what you do. This may be a process and your business may well evolve, I know mine does. But what are the benefits? What is the outcome of working with you? What is it, in very simple terms, that you do and how does that bring value to the people who work with you? Get very clear on this and help other people to understand too.
Be prepared to listen to feedback, even if it is silent – some of the best feedback I have had has been completely silent. Like nobody (really, nobody) turning up to one of my early seminars at a business show. I could have taken it personally, but instead I looked at what I had done to market myself and my seminar, and the next time I did better. Some of the feedback you get from networking will be invited and explicit, some of it will be silent. Nobody asking you for a 121 is feedback. Nobody buying from you is feedback. Both of those have happened to me along the way and I’ve adapted, improved, refined. And anyone can do the same. Listen to both sorts of feedback and, where relevant, see if you can do something differently, for a different result.
You know that guy? Don’t be that guy – stolen from Flickr’s Community Guidelines. This is by far the least tangible of all of them, but be aware that when you’re networking, you’re on show and whatever we like to think, people are making a judgement about us and whether they want to do business with us, all the time.
Notice, nurture and treasure your stock value. You are in control of whether it rises or falls in every community you are part of. I really hope this is helpful.
I’m the author of a couple of books about networking, which you can find here – Stefan Thomas on Amazon