With competition from outside sources throughout a range of our local industries, it is important to include yourselves in networks of business professionals. These can be through the likes of your local Chamber of Commerce, retail groups or even starting your own!
If your business is in an industrial estate, main street or anywhere there is a cluster of offices, shops or workshops, the best way you can make yourself top of mind and help grow the local economy is to chat to your neighbours about their industries and share experiences. In other words, build relationships with them.
The idea behind networks like this is to expand everyone’s general knowledge of other fields and in turn grow business opportunities creating stronger cash flow within the community.
Do you find yourself being asked questions by clients relating to other industries that you know nothing about?
My guess is that if you’re, let’s say, a painter completing a job on a building, more than likely, the owner has at least once come to you and asked about maybe how they should do their sign writing, or what you thought about the state of the roof etc. I’m sure in this situation you’d have some idea of how to proceed, but might not be confident enough to put your name to the advice just in case you get it wrong.
By being part of a business networking group, you can ask these questions and get the answers from the right person for the job.
So next time you get a curly question from a client, you not only have a helpful piece of information to pass on, but also a direct contact you can give the client.
E.g. “This is what I think you could do…………….., but maybe you should call Fred at ABC Industries to come and check it out. A good bloke who’ll look after you”
You've just completed a tidy circle of word of mouth referral
I am well aware that “word-of-mouth” is how most of you believe your business is coming in and I’m certainly not saying that isn't the case. All I am putting to you is the concept that (with the exception of your family and friends) your message has to have been seen somewhere to get people talking about your business.
Whether is has come from local newspaper, radio, websites, your own flyer drop or even the signage on your building or company vehicle, you need to have spent money to create the original message. No one has ever woken up in the morning and had an idea to go directly to your shop or call your service for their requirements – they will look to an advertising medium.
Once this has happened, that person may not be the one to use your service, but might tell a friend that is in the market for your particular service that they saw or heard about you. Now word-of-mouth has been created.
Business networks are a great way to create that word-of-mouth promotion through other business channels with absolutely NO COST. As we all know, almost every industry overlaps at some point, as all businesses need the help of others to complete the jobs they don’t have the expertise to do. By becoming involved in business networks, you will meet contacts from an array of different industries, that might switch to your service, or at least give out a few good referrals. This means you have “reps” helping promote your business for FREE and you will in turn act as a FREE “rep” for other businesses.
In no way am I saying you should drop your current advertising or even revise your budgets. In fact, quite the opposite. If at all possible, you should look at branching into several different mediums to cover as many buying markets as you can (if you increase your advertising budget, always set this before undertaking anything new and stick to it). This will give credibility to any word-of-mouth promotion that people hear. If they can relate it back to something they've seen or heard themselves it solidifies the message.
Remember, visibility and promotion delivered in the correct way will always give the impression of success and people want to be associated with or use something that is successful. Word-of-mouth lends itself to success – If people are talking about it, it must be good.
So, next time you get your morning coffee, drop in to your neighbour and see if they want one which will open the door for you to have a chat. All of a sudden, you've just started a business network.