Old-fashion networking with modern tactics

Old-fashioned networking, especially at the local level, is still one of the most cost-effective marketing methods available to a small business. But networking doesn't seem to come naturally to most. Visit any chamber of commerce luncheon and you’ll quickly see examples of bad networking. Like that guy who passes out business cards to everyone in the room and yet couldn’t tell you the name of a single person, he talked to an hour later.

Superficial type of networking is not recommended as a way to grow your business. Developing long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals who are willing to help you accomplish your business goals. By participating in local business networking groups like BNI, business owners can not only improve their networking skills, they can meet strategic partners and get lots of referrals.

Local business networking groups for the purpose of this article, are groups that meet the following criteria:

  • The group only allows one representative from each profession to join a chapter.

  • New members must go through an application and screening process to join the group (i.e., they don’t simply allow anybody who can pay the membership fee to join).

  • The primary purpose of the group is to facilitate the exchange of business referrals between members.

  • The group meets in person on a regular basis (weekly or bi-weekly).

  • Meetings have a structured format so that members get equal consideration and do not have to fight for attention.

  • Members are expected to adhere to a code of ethics and/or meet quality standards.

The following are 4 tips to make your networking group time the most effective!

#1: Be specific requesting referrals

A common aspect of these networking groups is that members have the chance to ask for referrals. Members are supposed to refer business to each other. To get the best ROI, be as specific as possible when asking for referrals. Know your fellow members, research who is in their LinkedIn, professional circles. Asking for something vague might end up working out for you. But if you know Cindy the landscaper rubs shoulders with Michelle the kingpin realtor in the area and you share a similar customer base. You will want to request that referral because you know you can garner value from it!

#2: Strategic partners

While a reference and introduction to a new customer is amazing. An introduction and relationship with a person who can send you referral after referral is much more valuable! Strategic partners take more time and energy before they result in cash flow. But this is a goldmine! Someone with the same customer base as you can put your name out time and time again when you are more than a business card in their drawer. Ask members of your local networking group for referrals to strategic partners, or better yet, join a chapter that already has a few potential strategic partners in it.

#3: Promote your content

Direct referrals are far from the only use for networking groups. Let us pretend that you have a blog that you post an educational article to once or twice a month. Why not ask your fellow members to share it on their personal Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, or LinkedIn profiles? Even better, if you are able to interview or get your fellow members to contribute a guest blog, those fellow members will share that content across their social media.

#4: Reviews

Positive online reviews for a local business on sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook are crucial, and getting reviews from customers can be a challenge. Offer to write your new networking partners reviews, and ask for them as well!

It’s time to take action. Enroll in a local If you’re already a member of a local networking group and aren’t using all of the above ideas, then start! Just don’t be surprised if other members of your group start copying you once they see what great results you’re getting.