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Commentary & Analysis

Principle Number 5

By Barbara Pellow May 10,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: May 10, 2006

By Barbara Pellow May 10, 2006 -- Before there were high speed communications links, computers and the Internet, television and radio, companies needed to find ways to promote their organizations. The promotional technique they used is still in practice today. The technique is called networking. Networking is probably the oldest, most accepted, and least expensive means of promoting your business. Networking is also something that graphic communications service providers rarely think about. The key to good business networking is the establishment of true relationships Business networking is the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients and/or customers. The key to good business networking is the establishment of true relationships, an incredibly rare event at the standard shake-hands-and-exchange-your-business-card events that are touted as business networking "opportunities." In last week's column, I talked about the best $20 I ever spent, the cover price of Jeffrey Gitomer's "Little Red Book of Selling." One of the most significant principles he discusses is the importance of networking to build your business. He says there are three primary benefits of networking for sales people and management. First, cold calling is not the best way to start a relationship. Networking gives you the ability to meet someone face to face first. Secondly, networking is a way to meet people without having to set up the fearful "cold call." I have yet to meet a sales person who is comfortable making initial "cold calls." Gitomer says, "Consider for a moment an annual convention or tradeshow. One hundred exhibitors, maybe more, with decision makers milling about. People you couldn't get to see within a year are all in the same room at the same time. If you meet them and they like you, you will have an easier time getting your phone call through and making a meeting." Finally networking leads to referrals. While not every networking contact is a direct prospect for your business, they can all lead to referrals. While not every networking contact is a direct prospect for your business, they can all lead to referrals But How Do I Network? Over the course of my career in sales and marketing, I've discovered three basic principles to effective networking. 1. Identify your target market and where the highest probability is for meeting decision makers in that market. You need to go where your customers and prospects go. Last week, Mike Moran, President of Toronto based Market Connections, invited me to assist him with a seminar he was presenting at for the American Bankers Association Marketing Network of New Jersey. One of Market Connections' key target markets is financial services. In his presentation, Moran told the group, "We focus on the delivery of high value, industry-specific customized newsletters for the financial services markets. The content is Web accessible to financial service agents, who can customize it as an educational tool for their client base." Moran continued to explain, "We get testimonials all the time from financial advisors who will go to somebody's house and see a copy of a newsletter sitting on the coffee table with certain sections highlighted. They immediately realize the value of maintaining that persistency in communication." Mike went to the meeting, mingled at breakfast with a number of marketing executives, and presented value-added information during his seminar. For Mike, setting up follow-on calls with the individuals he talked to will be an easy process. The opportunities are endless for finding places to reach your target markets. If you are focusing on digital color printing, join the local Direct Marketing Association Chapter or the American Marketing Association or the Ad Council. You could also do this on a national basis with the Direct Marketing Association or American Marketing Association. If you are an expert in a horizontal segment like training documentation, you might want to get involved with the American Society for Training and Development. If your value is improving the supply chain for documentation, get actively engaged with the Institute for Supply Management. There are also civic organizations, charities, and the Chamber of Commerce. There are local business journal events, and you can meet people at your golf club, health club, or your children's school. Identify your target market and go where you have the potential to meet prospects and customers. The key is to identify your target market and go where you have the potential to meet prospects and customers. If you don't know which events targeted decision makers attend, ask them. Find out which ones they think are worthwhile. Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks because that's where the money was. The same thing is true for effective networking. If the right decision makers aren't there, it is hard to meet them. 2. Be prepared to articulate your 30 second value proposition. When you introduce yourself, don't just say your name and title, but describe what you do. One of the best examples I heard was from a financial planner. As he introduced himself, he said, "I help rich people sleep at night." As graphic communicators, think about the special values you deliver to clients every day. Some of you have helped promote Tom Cruise and Mission Impossible through phenomenal signage. Others have made the world safer by delivering printed materials for drug recalls. Someone was responsible for the documentation for Google's initial stock offering. As you network, give people a sound bite that helps them understand the true value of what you do as a graphic communications service provider. Then actively listen to what the contact has to say about his or her business, and identify a reason for continuing a dialogue. Give people a sound bite that helps them understand the true value of what you do as a graphic communications service provider 3. Don't just shake hands and leave. Actively participate. If it appears to the participants that you are just there to sell and are an opportunist, relationships will not be forthcoming. You need to add value to the interaction. There may be opportunities to work on upcoming conferences or workshops the group sponsors. They may be looking for a speaker for their next event. A committee position may be open. They may have a newsletter that needs additional content and you could write a column. Jim Shultz, President of Great Lakes Integrated, is actively involved with the Northeast Ohio Direct Marketing Association. They were looking for a luncheon speaker on 1:1 marketing and the impact that digital technology is having on the world of business communications. Jim called me to do a speech at the session and he emceed the event. It was a tremendous opportunity for him to differentiate his business in the eyes of the marketers in the Cleveland business community. Networking means that you need to be prepared to help the other person or organization out if you want to be helped out in return. Networking…It's the Most Cost Effective Form of Marketing With all of today's modern technology, people still buy from people With all of today's modern technology, people still buy from people. Gitomer says, "The reason face to face is so powerful is your prospect can get to like you faster. The more they like you, the more they will buy from you. Networking builds rapport that builds to appointments and ultimately sales." As you reflect on yourself and your organization, ask the question, what role does good networking play in my marketing mix? Barb Pellow is Managing Partner of Pellow and Partners, LLC. She can be reached at Pellow barb@pellowandpartners.com

 

 

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