How can Soviralnetbusworks become a key part of the marketing mix as opposed to an alternative lifestyle
Bridging between the web and the real world
Bridging the gap between the web and the real world part 2
Bridging the gap between the web and the real world part 3
“The filofax of the twenty first century?”
One could easily assume from reading the previous sections that my opinions are anti- networking. I have been accused of this twice by people who use networking successfully .
In fact nothing could be further than the truth. I am especially against misleading people to expect the impossible from networking as many self professed gurus tend to do. It does not work for everyone and not in the same way. I also resent being accosted at networking meetings, or spammed incessantly. I do recognise the power of networking to deliver spectacular results for some people when used intelligently.
Fundamentals of networking
Traditionally we all rely on support networks to advise us about what worked for others, let us in on the next big thing and very occasionally to buy from us(invariably in expectation of substantial discount) and once in a while to recommend us. Nothing about this is new and it is a critical activity for most of us. It helps to know an expert on telephony and instead of three days of comparing deals you call your trusted old school pal and ask him to recommend a deal. You trust him and make the purchase. Add on the saved time and effort and you have a bargain for sure. This is not someone you casually met at breakfast, or online though, so be careful when drawing comparisons.
When I needed two telesales people, I ignored the agencies and told my eighteen year old daughter, who told her Facebook friends and within 45 minutes I had three interviews set up. That is powerful, but it is using technology to speed up what we always did. It is not some mystic new black art.
Mass “networking” is another thing altogether. It is “the filofax of the twenty first century”. Many people approached via internet research and focus groups expressed the belief that they had to be seen as networkers and that if they didn’t use twitter they were yesterdays people. The hours wasted for little or mostly no financial gain is eating up their personal time as well as business time. Sometimes they just shouldn’t be doing it at all and other times they are approaching it all wrong lead astray by “Web2 gurus” who last year were “SEO experts” , before that “web design gurus” and before that “filofax gurus” and studying to be “Twitter gurus”. God help us!.
Who does it work for?
If you enjoy spending a small amount of time chatting to people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, or writing a blog, or learning from forums, good for you, it is working for you and keep on going.
If you are the local builder who completes two bungalows a year, local networking may be your sole marketing effort and it works very well.
If you are an insurance salesman you will have been indoctrinated in this from day one and you’ll be the guy at every dog fight collecting numbers and turning the conversation to pensions. A friend of mine did this all his life and made a tremendous income out of attending Indian weddings.
The formula is ultra simple.
Cast your mind back to the basic sales process we discussed in the last instalment; tyre kicking, need, facts and figures ,trust building, desire, urgency , etc.
However you organise your funnel, whether you base it on a buying, or a selling process, you will have steps like these that qualify your potential customer through stages to the point where you are presenting and negotiating for business with them. Most people call this a “potential” in CRM speak
Let’s compare two scenarios:
1 person in every thousand buys my widgets. My process is to:
- identify people who buy the product in sufficient quantity and start the conversation
- ask permission to pitch for a small piece of business, or offer a trial
- convince them of the benefits and our USP,
- establish trust
- time a motivating offer with a current urgent need
- win a customer
- develop the relationship.
At point A, there are 65 million or so people to talk to until we have done our qualifying. For a reasonable chance of a sale we need to get 1000 people in the room. How much do you think it would cost to build relationships with all of them? Let’s say five of them know someone who might be in the market, what do you think is the likelihood they will go to the trouble and take the personal risk, of recommending us, or anyone will respect their opinion? Not great.
Every business with few exceptions uses an accountant and they tend to change every three years on average. In order to stand a reasonable chance of doing business we need only three or four in the room per accountant present.
In this case, as long as the ratio of accountants to SME in the room is better than 1:4 we can start on the relationship building phase with complete confidence. Everyone knows what the product is and only buy because they have to. The decision points are price and trust.
Three simple things to “DO”
- Divide your networking into two separate functions “Hunting” and “Farming”.
Hunting is about meeting new potential contacts and finding out quickly whether they fit in your network as potential suppliers or customers.
- Restrict your network to a size you are able to maintain contact with (Accepted scientific research put’s that at around 150 contacts maximum).
- Don’t try to be everyone’s pal, find people who share your views and attitudes and are likely to value your product, or service. (positioning)
- Spend your farming time with people who are likely to become a customer, or that are likely to be a useful supplier in the near and foreseeable future and those who have bought from you and are likely to buy again or to be recommenders and ambassadors.
- Be a listener and use your judgement to keep evolving your products and services according to the feedback from trusted and commercially viable customers
- Control your networking time and budget, it still deserves no more than a few percent of budget and a few hours a week. If you could be completing paid work, do it and spend the profits on traditional marketing, you will get better and faster returns every time.
Three simple things to “NOT DO”
- Don’t expect people to buy your product because you are their pal
- Don’t forget to attend to all the aspects of the sales/buying process for every prospect regardless of how well you know them, they still need to have their questions answered and fears allayed and they need to justify their decision to others
- Don’t pounce on everyone who looks remotely interested and try to “sell to them” get an invitation to pitch first.
- Don’t fill their inbox with spam just because they gave you an email address.
A revolutionary new idea you are not going to take up because it makes sense and there’s no voodoo involved.
Make your customers your sales force. Treat them so well that they are delighted to sing your praises.
Spend that marketing budget on discounts to people they recommend, so they get kudos and you get extra business recommended by your existing customers.
Spend on taking them to the races, inviting them to parties and useful free conferences and encouraging them to invite a colleague or contact.
The budget you set aside for telling them how much you value your customer’s, spend your budget on taking care of them. Action speaks louder ..
Have a banker answer the phone about queries, not a call centre in Pakistan and have them develop a relationship (network) with the customer and the customer’s friends.
Spend your time networking within this great group of customers and hot prospects learning about their needs and improving your offering.
It will require great research, great positioning, crystal clear branding, and an enlightened staff open to new ways of working, but it could be transformational. There’s no Voodoo here, just common sense and delivering on the promise, but you won’t do it, so we won’t labour it.