Are you reaping the benefits from business networking?
Jessica from Just Williams recently wrote about ‘smarketing’ for our blog and the often unnecessarily uneasy relationship between sales and marketing. In a similar vein, I (Aimee, that is) would like to talk about the relationship between networking and marketing today.
Unfortunately I don’t have a catchy portmanteau like Jess did…
Networking – love it or hate it – is a fundamental element of building a brand, both commercially and personally. But it also supports other elements of your marketing strategy, including development of a referral/affiliate network of professionals, development of your employees as ambassadors and ‘People of Influence’ and direct marketing/selling to your target market.
Narrative is a keen supporter of the North East England Chamber of Commerce and their events, having attended and exhibited at many in the last five years as a member. We spoke to Chamber marketing manager, Charlotte Johns, to get her view on how networking supports your business’ marketing activity:
“We organise well over 100 events every year, from opportunities to hear interesting speakers, share business challenges and successes as well as grow your knowledge. All of these events are perfectly placed for our members (and sometimes non-members) to grow their network of contacts by seeing potential customers face to face. Often our relationship managers are able to select some key potential clients and make specific introductions. There is no substitute for the power of networking and making a great first impression, in person.”
In my role I attend many networking events each month to meet new people and get to know new businesses in the region. So I have started putting together my thoughts on how to align these events with your business’ marketing in the guide below.
1. What do you do?
Ensure you can explain what you do and what your business does in one sentence. Whether you’re chatting at the croissant and coffee table, or standing up for your ‘30 seconds’ of fame, it needs to be snappy and crucially, in line with your business’ key messages.
If you want to be seen as a friendly and accessible business which puts people first, avoid jargon and make sure you are approachable and enthusiastic to meet other people whilst you’re there!
If you are looking to improve perception of the business as one integrated unit, don’t make jokes about your employees or internal teams.
If your key messages reflect trust and experience, don’t put forward your most nervous and disinterested team member to represent you – at least not alone.
2. Marketing materials matter
Take marketing collateral with you! Obviously business cards, but also small guides or brochures which can be distributed to those who show interest in your business.
3. Be consistent across your marketing channels
If you are presenting or hosting a networking event, co-ordinate your other marketing channels to support the content you are promoting. If an attendee wants to find out more, can they go to your social media, blog, email marketing, another event, or speak to a member of staff and find consistent and complementary messaging?
Develop a plan of content which supports the event before, during and after to keep attendees engaged (this also ensures people who wanted to attend but couldn’t, can still reap the benefits of your knowledge and be exposed to your marketing!)
An example would be if you were attending a networking event for a specific industry – post a case study from that industry on your website, run a webinar with a member of staff giving advice to potential customers in that industry, send attendees a follow up email or direct mail with further information about the topic, and use social media to engage with influencers in this specific industry.
4. Tell people where you are
Promote the fact you are out and about, let people know who you’ve met and don’t be shy in following and mentioning new business acquaintances in social media posts. Take photos (with permission) and use the event hashtag where appropriate.
5. Be a host
Offer to be a host for an event (if appropriate), which will bring your target audience to you! This often incurs a relatively small cost for refreshments and time to organise, however it can reap rewards as you showcase your premises, team, services and products to your target audience and the wider business community.
This can also cement your place in a particular networking group, and can elevate perception of you as an influencer in that group.
Do you have any networking and marketing advice? Tweet us at @NarrativeComms.This post was created on 13th June 2018