Your business cannot survive without customers. Although that is painfully obvious, many entrepreneurs are more concerned about the product or service that they are going to sell that who is going to buy from them.
Once you start to consider customers, you start to think about how and where to find them. To avoid taking the inefficient and costly scatter-gun approach, you need to segment your market so that you can focus your reach. What kind of customers do you need? Who are your customers? Where are they, what is their lifestyle measure (LSM), what media do they respond to, what is their demographic?
Then you need to consider how to get your message across to them. You could use marketing: advertising, word of mouth, telesales. And then there’s referral networking. Once you have established who you are targeting, you may just find that your customers are there, in a group, waiting for you.
Being sociable animals, humans often gather in common interest groups. Business networks are no different. Business referral networks are groups of like-minded businesspeople who use the power of networking to secure customers.
In South Africa, we typically have in-person and online networks. Each has their place but to build a solid customer base, nothing beats the human touch. Several networking organisations form groups that meet regularly.
And because they know one another, members of network groups get to trust each other and are happy to recommend or promote each others’ businesses to their own clients. In an online network, you don’t really get to know the other business-owners. In the real world, you are able to look the other person in the eye and know if they have integrity.
In a world, where people are being bombarded with advertising from all sides, business networks give you the opportunity to establish relationships with other people. Networks are not about getting leads they are about relationships first, get that right and leads will follow.
Furthermore, networks provide an opportunity for support, ……..
But networks only work when the group members make an effort to ensure that they work. It is essential for all members to be actively involved.
If you need a more hard-core reason to be convinced, here it is. Networking is a numbers game: if there are 20 other members in your network and each has 20 contacts, you have potentially 20 x 20 that’s at least 400 business contacts.
first published in SME South Africa
To give you some idea of how popular networks are among business people, here is a list of a few South African networks:
Black Business Women’s Association (BBWA), Black Management Forum (BMF), BNI South Africa, Business Networking South Africa, Businesswomen’s Association, your local Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FaceBook business, Foundation of African Business & Consumer Services (FABCOS), Greater Alexandra Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Imbizo, Inner Circle Business Forum, Junior Chamber International South Africa, LinkedIn, Meetup, NSBC, OPENTENDERS, South Africa Business Network, South African Black Entrepreneurs Forum, South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN), Visa Business Networking on Facebook, Women’s Business Networks, and more.
Could you use business networking to grow your business?
business advisor at DoBetter.Business
Click here if you want to discuss how you can benefit from joining a business network.