We've all heard that it's not what you know, it's who you know.
That's accurate to a point; however, I would adjust that statement as such:
It's not what you know, but whom you know, that makes profitable connections.
You can own more intellectual property, and have more highly innovative thoughts, than all of your competitors combined…and it won't amount to a hill of beans unless you make the connections necessary for proving your expertise and sharing information about your brand.
Networking has proven, again and again, to be the key to getting the word out about your brand.
I know—networking is something you habitually avoid. It's uncomfortable. The events are boring and sometimes awkward. You meet the same people over and over—people who aren't going anywhere and who have nothing useful to offer your brand.
And yet, you haven't accomplished much without networking, either.
So what's the answer?
I'll give you a hint: The answer doesn't have to do with no networking or with more networking…it has to do with better networking.
And in many cases, that means online networking.
Allow me to explain…
Build a Brand, with a Different Kind of Networking
Chances are you've visited other business's social media pages and groups and seen follower numbers in the thousands.
And, chances are, you've wondered how in the world they've accomplished that.
It's important to remember that no one—customer, prospect, follower, admirer, audience member—is going join your network unless they can anticipate receiving value or benefit.
It's also important to remember that your ideal network will not gather its worth in numbers, but rather in the quality of the contacts contained there. In other words, it should be filled with your ideal customers, as well as those people who have access to your ideal customers.
You can choose to skip online networking (a.k.a. social networking); however, the consequences of choosing that path will include:
- reduced opportunities
- limited (possibility inadequate) income
- perceptions that your business is outdated
- belief that your business is out-of-touch
- failure to maintain mind share
- widespread indifference regarding your brand
With those points in mind, let's talk about how you can initiate and take advantage of online networking:
- Identify Key Players. Of your current customers, which ones are ideal (i.e. they have the problem you're solving, they appreciate your work, and they're happy to pay you what you're worth)? Identify a few of those people and ask them to help you get the word out about your brand. Incentivise them. Give them reasons and rewards for sharing news about your brand.
- Target Your Ideal Customers. Up until now, you may have been focussed on numbers. That's about to change. Invite only those people into your network who are perfect fits for your business…or those who know lots of those 'perfect' people.
- Show Mutual Interest. For many people, getting interested in your brand starts with you showing interest in them. Think about mutual benefit (i.e. helping each other to succeed).
- Think About Engagement. One 'hello' is never enough. Instead, think in terms of long-standing relationships. Keep in constant touch with your network. Build each other up. Support one another. Keep the network buzzing.
- Build a Self-Contained Economy. When you have a business need, or when one of your contacts has a need, turn to your network first. Maybe you know of someone in your network who has the skills necessary for filling that need; and if not, ask your network for referrals. Keep this up, and everyone in the network will proceed in this manner…meaning that referrals for your brand will ramp up, too.
- Make Referrals Profitable for Everyone. What benefit or reward will referrers within your network receive? Sure, helping someone make a brilliant connection will improve your profile; however, adding benefit will make all referrals more appealing for everyone. Think about public acknowledgement, returning of the favour…or whatever you believe your network connection and referral superstars would appreciate.
- Offer Value to Network Members. There's got to be a reason (or better yet, a number of reasons) that people want to join your network…and stay there. What do they all have in common, and what value can you provide to them? Not every offering has to appeal to every network member; however, keep a baseline of interest and avoid straying too far from that.
- Complement Online Networking with In-Person Networking. Offer opportunities for members of your network to meet you and interact in-person. This could be through events that you organise, or simply by sharing information about where you'll be so everyone can meet up. Be sure to accept others' invitations when you can, too.
As you work to build your network, social media is a brilliant tool for making profitable connections without geographical limitations. Remember that starting and building up the numbers in that network are never enough. You must offer lots of value and interact on a continual basis in order to keep your entire network engaged and putting forth effort to bring in new, contributing members.
Have questions about how I've built my network? And how what I've learnt can be applied to your business? The best place to make connections and ask questions is in the How to Build a Brand Facebook group, where entrepreneurs and business owners gather to support one another, ask questions and get expert advice. Or, take your engagement and commitment a step further by joining the Brand Builders Club, where freedom-focussed brand builders are gathering to learn how to increase the credibility, visibility and profitability of their purpose-driven businesses with expert mastermind sessions and much more.