Most headlines today refer to an economy in a downward spiral, unable to pull it self out of the looming, economic death spiral. In my opinion, the downward spiral is simply a dramatic indicator of the market shifting. We’re witnessing a very significant “paradigm shift” in our economy, and most people are waiting for someone else, namely the government, to stop the shifting. I’m no economist, but I do run a business, and no I don’t trust the government.
Shift happens, and those who fail to recognize the shift and shift with it are doomed to long term recovery.
Today’s savvy business person recognizes that thriving in this chaotic shift will require the collaboration of many. We need friends, colleagues and strategic business partners to thrive in this new environment. The traditional methods of advertising and marketing are too expensive, too cumbersome and too time consuming to assure business success.
So how do we go about adapting to the shift? We adapt by returning to the very basics of business development. We network! We network person-to-person, face-to- face. The old adage of “It’s now what you know, but who you know,” is no longer enough. In addition, “It’s who knows you, and when do they know you?” These days, prospective customers need to know you, like you and trust you before they decide to buy. The time you invest in networking to build these relationships, are worth far more than the relationships you may build by buying advertising. Plus, the value of an extremely satisfied customer will lead to additional referrals you didn’t have to pay for.
Where do you network? Anywhere, but each place requires careful attention. I recommend five places to network.
1. At a “Closed Networking Group” like Gold Star Clubs or Business Network International. Here, you meet weekly with your fellow club members to get to know, like and trust each other. It is said that each of us are easily connected to about 250 people, so each incremental member of your organization has an exponential network of 250, so if there are 25 people in your club, you have the possible connectivity to 6,250 others. For most people, this weekly meeting represents a fundamental change in the way they conduct business, or even schedule their daily lives. The potential benefit, however, is huge. I recently received a referral with a value of over $10,000.00 from a person who knows me, likes me and trusts me because I took the time to get to know him, like him and trust him. What’s a little time for a referral like that?
2. At Chamber networking coffees, and social hours. These events are for introductions and data gathering. Meet new people and get information about them. Follow up with them later. There’s a whole method to type of networking, but here are a few hints. One, eat before you go because it’s hard to talk with your mouth full, and you hands on drinks and food. Two, stay away from alcohol, it tends to get you to say stupid things, and you can’t fix stupid. Three, have a plan to meet specific people, or a number of people. Exchange contact information, get permission to call and move on. Four, follow-up, and quickly.
3. Professional associations. Go to where your prospects are members. For example, I attend meetings where medical professionals meet. I pay a little more for being a visitor, and I get to meet lots of key prospects.
4. Civic organizations. Typically, these groups frown on business networking, but you can get to know key people here. You follow up on business later.
5. Your own events. This is a little bit of a stretch for most people, but if you don’t stretch you don’t grow. My personal goal is to speak on networking or business development at least once every month. Sometimes I sponsor my own events through local chambers of commerce.
Our business environment is shifting. Recognize the shift as an opportunity. Fortunes are made during recessions, too. You just have to do some things differently, if you want a different result.