Business Networking On The Internet
Networking has long been one of the most valuable and viable tools a marketer or salesman can have. Way before the Internet became such a business powerhouse, marketers built up lists of potential leads and business relationship partners through networking. Even though a lot of businesses have taken their sales efforts online, there are still lessons to be learned from offline business networking.
Industry And Trade Events
Industry and trade events, business meetings, and seminars are just a few of the most likely venues to meet people interested in your service or product. Offline network marketers have been attending these types of function almost religiously for years. Groups of like minded people naturally flock to these events providing ample opportunity to network and begin to develop relationships.
Social networking websites are a major part of Web 2.0 and offer opportunities for the active networker to meet and make new leads. Much has been made of Web 2.0 as being a more social Internet further enhancing the opportunity for positive business networking. Blogs, forums, and content sharing websites are just some of the types of website that you can get involved in. By leaving memorable and relevant comments with a signature link to your own site or portfolio you can effectively build a profile of new leads and interested customers.
A Pocket Full Of Business Cards
Every networker knows that they need a plentiful supply of business cards. They're always ready to hand two to anybody that asks (one for the receiver and one for somebody they know that may also be interested). An equally important part of networking, though, is the receipt of business cards. Any business relationship needs to be a two way encounter and that's why networkers always have a healthy selection of other people's business cards. This also gives them the chance to follow up on leads and keep in regular contact with any potential clients or referrals.
The link to your website acts largely like a business card. It directs leads to a central location that includes contact information and a raft of other informative facts about you, your service, and the products you offer. Always be ready to link to your website but only do so when it's called for. Don't spam and don't post links where they aren't welcome. It is true that links help to improve search rankings but illegitimate posting of your link offers only a very short term gain, if it offers a gain at all.
The most effective offline networkers are friendly, amicable, and helpful. They don't engage in one sided conversations and listen to the whole discussion as well as offer intuitive and insightful information. First impressions really do last and it's important that you be memorable for all the right reasons.
Networking online requires the same lasting impression. You should come across as being helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly. In every aspect of your networking it is imperative that you act appropriately - it may be a virtual world, but the people involved are no less real. When using blogs and forums that are relevant to your area, links will only really prove effective if they are accompanied by a genuine comment offering information or help. Simple posts like "I agree" or "great post" won't cut it with most people.
Build Relationships Rather Than Go For The Sell
Networking is a means of generating new leads. In some circumstances it may prove beneficial to go straight for the sell, but these circumstances are few and far between. Offline marketers know that by building a positive relationship with a lead they will be more inclined to use their service or buy their product over and over again but only when they need it.
Much is made of the power of your leads and for good reason. Building a list of online leads, with email addresses and other data, enables you to keep in constant communication. New product releases, special offers, and joint ventures can all be promoted to the same list with the possibility of selling numerous products to the same people. Building a list of leads is often done by using form of lead capture form on your website - offer a newsletter or a free offer that can only be accessed by providing an email address.
You Get Out What You Put In
Networking, whether it be online or offline, is not a simple task. It is considered a form of guerilla marketing because it can be done for very little money but an expenditure of your own time and effort is required instead. The more effort you put into building a powerful list of leads, the better the results you will acquire. Visit more sites, talk to more people, and grow your list quicker so that it contains more qualified leads.
Visiting sites that are highly relevant to your industry and to your product or service will ensure that you gain targeted and qualified leads. These leads are likely to be the most responsive when you later attempt to sell them anything. Be careful never to use underhand or black hat methods when networking online because it can get your link removed, your post banned, and can even cause untold damage to the popularity of your website that is incredibly difficult to recover from; in short, it just isn't worth it.
Look After Your Leads
Once you've built your list of qualified leads you need to take care of them. Don't just leave them without any contact for weeks or months on end - you need to keep in contact regularly enough that they don't forget who you are but not contact them too often that they unsubscibe from your mailing list. If anybody does want to unsubscribe then you have to remove them from your list as soon as possible and ensure that no more communication is sent them to them.
Networking is a good business practice. Offline, it has been used for many years to help entrepreneurs, salesmen, and marketers promote their service, product or business. The advance of social networking online means that it is an even more viable method to improve your online business results, generate sales, and offer a superb ROI on a minor investment.