The Secrets of Networking and Word-of-Mouth Marketing
The authors of Ideate all realised very soon in our careers that, when it comes to entrepreneurship, there is no better marketing tool than word of mouth marketing (WOM). This is not a new thing, and we certainly don’t expect you to slap your head and go: “Ahhhhhh, so that’s it!” We know you know that we knew you knew that already, but here’s the thing: You can’t stimulate WOM by sitting on your bum and tinkering at your business plan. You need to GET OUT THERE! Even the savviest business minds fall into the trap of inertia, trapped behind their desks and ignoring the power of personal contact.
So, we’re going to share with you some techniques in order to assist you on your networking journey. These tips are certainly not the be all and end all of the methods of spreading the good word, but they will get you thinking, and hopefully acting.
Tip 1: Build your personal brand
As the old adage goes “People do business with people” so, in your case, ask yourself: What sets you apart in a crowd? What is your message? Figure out who your target audience is, who you want to connect with, then tailor that message accordingly. Structure a memorable way of delivering the message, from your style of talking, the creativity of your business card to the way you dress or shake people’s hands. Just remember: don’t be ordinary!
Tip 2: Set networking targets
It’s no good saying that you’ll get out there with no plan in place. Search business directories like Gauteng Business News, Cape Business Directory and BizCommunity for events and get out there. Night time events are great, since people are more sociable, so take a look at 27dinners, Geek Dinners and Heavy Chef Sessions. A great one to start with is entrepreneur-focused bank FNB’s Biznetwork events. Go to the Biznetwork site and sign up to be invited. You don’t even have to be an FNB account holder to join.
Tip 3: Work out your pitch
This should be less than 30 seconds. It needs to describe, differentiate, and distinguish. It also needs to lead people to ask for more. Wrong way: “I’m a printer in Johannesburg. We do all kinds of printing for all kinds of businesses.” Right way: “We provide small and large businesses with the best printing service in Johannesburg. We do this using a special system we’ve innovated over the past 5 years of working closely with clients.”
Tip 4: Define a call to action
It’s no good making a connection. You need to follow this up with ‘what next?’ Hopefully this is something that will allow more face time, but even if it’s not, then ensure that there is a chance for some kind of connection, whether it’s a phone call or an email. The trick is to ‘initiate with value’. Say something like “I’m in your neck of the woods next week, why don’t we hook up for coffee? I can show you the killer new product I’m dropping off at another client. It’s mindblowing how much this thing shaves off the bottom line.”
Tip 5: Leave something valuable
If someone bites, then you need to remain top of mind. When you hand over your business card, ensure there is value attached. Work something out like “Check out our website address listed there. There’s a free downloadable document of cost-saving techniques for your industry.”
Good luck, and tell us how it goes!