How to make connections in business: Adding value to your business and networks

Marketing your business

Establishing strong and long lasting business relationships is a key strategy to growing any business. This presentation looks at you can best add value to your networks and then your business.

Key learning outcomes:

  • Identifying local networking opportunities
  • Understanding your budget and time commitment
  • How to build a trust kitty
  • How to share your story
  • How to create valuable links

Presentation: How to make connections in business - Adding value to your business and networks

How to make connections in business: Adding value to your business and networks

I'm Caroline Lovett. I'm from Credible Source Solutions, and I'd like to share with you how to make connections in business, how to add value to your business and to networks through identifying network opportunities.

I want to help you gain more confidence in selecting the relevant network groups for you and your business, and connect you with mutually beneficial contacts, and grow your business through the awareness of following network etiquette, which is important.

This session will help you identify networks best suited to your groups and your connections, and we want to get you thinking innovatively about alternative networks, as well as the standard ones and traditional ones, and making sure you hold those valuable conversations when you're attending these network groups.

How do we do this? Well, what I want to share with you is your thought patterns, how you outline this as you think through about the best opportunity and the best network groups for your business and for you to join.

Key things to consider when looking for networking groups

1. What's local?

Some of the questions that we go through when we're looking at networking groups is what's local? What are you looking for in a networking group? Are you prepared to travel into the city? Whether it be Brisbane city or it's the Sunshine Coast for networking group opportunities. Look at areas of networking, which might be large networking groups, networking groups that are successful in their field throughout different communities. For example, the BNI, the Business Networking International group - a highly successful group, to small groups like Brendale Business Connect, and a list of groups that are available for you on the Moreton Bay website, that I'll be able to share with you.

2. What's your budget?

When you've looked at what's local and how far are you prepared to travel, the next opportunity is looking at network groups is, do you have a budget? What's your budget? Because some network groups have a cost attached to them to join, with a return on your investment through some of the requirements to stick with the group, which helps you then to build business, grow business, and then earn income. But have a look and make sure when you're looking at these business network groups, what would you like to spend?

For example, the smaller groups, like the Now Business network community group on the North side of Brisbane, that's $50 to join. Other groups can be up to $1,000 to $1,700 to join. Make sure you do your research first and look what you're looking for as an outcome from joining a network group, but don't get caught up in the business network group activity. Look at local groups, Chambers of Commerce have some great businesses working there, and they do some great community work as well.

Have a look at your local Rotary, Apex, Lions, anything like that type of activity, because sometimes you find your best suited network group in a place you didn't expect it. So, the second part is to make sure you look at your budget.

3. What's your time commitment?

The third part, once you've looked at where you want to travel to, how much you want to spend to join, you've got to factor in your time commitment.

During the periods of Zoom where everybody's been meeting on Zoom, it's been great. Everybody's been in their pajamas and they've been sitting there having their Zoom meetings. They get up out of bed five minutes before, grab their coffee and have a Zoom.

But when it comes back to meeting face-to-face, which is really important to grow a great network base, how much time each week, or each month, can you spend in a networking group. Some groups have requirements where you must attend every week in their weekly meetings. If you can't turn up, you must have a substitute. And you've got a certain amount of time where if you're ill or a way there's an allowance, but after that three strikes and you're out. So be careful when you research your network groups. What's going to work for you, and what's your time commitment to give to this group? Because once you step in you've got to make time to make it work.

4. Don't over commit

Now, if you're like me, when I went out in business on my own, I got so excited that there were all these wonderful people in network groups. I was joining and attending all of them. By the end of the first month, I was so exhausted. I was calling people by the wrong names and I was turning up at the wrong meetings at the wrong time. I over committed.

And that was my learning, to actually research the network groups that work for you. Join or visit the ones that you think will meet the needs of your business. And then throw in a few little curve balls for yourself and attend ones that you think "I'm sure there's nothing in it for me", because that's when you often get pleasantly surprised. But at the end of the day, when you're looking to join network groups, don't over commit. Join perhaps one or two groups and then grow from that to see if you're going to get business benefit from them.

5. Toe dip and see if it's for you

The other thing as well is don't throw in the $50 up to $1,700 membership straight away, as if this is it, this is going to help your business. Do what I like to call a toe dip. See if it's for you. And a great way to toe dip, which I've been quite lucky - and it's something for you to factor in as well - is some network groups will let you attend for two visits and then they'll encourage you to join.

Other network groups, for example, the larger groups where they have those clear guidelines that you must attend each week, or you must have a substitute, strike up some connections with some of those businesses at other meetings, other network groups, if they start talking to you about these network groups, ask them, do they ever need a substitute? Because the one thing about these large groups is they like people to come in and substitute from another business, so they can see what it's like and potentially be a candidate to subscribe to the network group.

By toe dipping and being a substitute, there's no pressure on you to join, which is wonderful. You can step in and get an absolute feel for the group representing the person you're substituting for. You can make a decision if it's for you and if you'd like to come back as a guest where you can talk about your business, that's a great opportunity.

6. Don't give up too quickly

Once you've been to a couple of network groups and nothing's happening. (You're meeting a few people. You're having a couple of coffees, but you're not getting any business). Don't give up too quickly.

Remember, these people have built their reputation in the network groups on trust. You are an unknown quantity to them. They're looking to trust you. They're looking to see whether you and your business is trustworthy if they're to recommend you. What if they get burnt? What if you don't do what you've promised you're going to do? It's not just your reputation with the customer. It's their reputation too. Don't give up too quickly if things don't happen straight away, give it time.

7. Ask how you can help them

The first thing you need to do to build this trust is to find out how you can help these people in network groups. What is it you can do for them? What clients and customers do you have that their business would possibly need? And to socialize that 'helping' with them. So that they know that you're in it for the right reason. You're not just in it for you. There's an element of that for every business owner in a network group.

But what's great about a lot of the network groups is the community attachment as well, where they do some fundraising for the community and their group while doing business. Some of the smaller groups are community first and give to the community first and do business second, and that's a great theory to have.

8. Build a trust kitty

The whole point of how you can help them, and how you can then make yourself a trusted part of that network, is to build a trust kitty. Now for those of you who are a lot younger than me, that don't know what a kitty is, it's a little pot where you put all your money until it builds up.

A trust kitty is where you put your trust in every time you gain somebody's trust in your network group. And as your trust kitty builds up their businesses are more likely to promote your business. They're more likely to ask you, and find out more about your business, and find ways to bring clients to you. Because they can see the help is reciprocal, you want to help them, and you're building up their trust, and you're not letting them down, you're not damaging their brand or their reputation when they recommend you.

9. Have a story to share

Once you're established in your network group, and you're quite happy which ones you'd like to be part of, you'll find every week, especially in the ones that aren't huge, you'll stand up and you'll have 50 seconds of fame. Which is telling everybody in that group what your business does.

Now, I don't know about you, but if you're going every week and it's the same businesses every week, and the same spiel comes out every week - you're likely to shut off, check your phone, repeat it to yourself, not listen so that that person is heard. So that applies to you when you're standing there with your 50 seconds of fame, make sure you've got a great story to tell about your business.

For example, you've just won a Moreton Bay [Business] award for an exceptional product that you've brought into the community, an environmental initiative, you've just achieved a gold star, or you're now an Australian made, recognized product. Anything like that will make your people in your network group sit up and listen, because it's a different story they got to hear today. It's not just about your product and what you do. You've got some new stuff to share with them. And that story is a story that'll stick with them when they're talking to their clients about your business.

10. Share your successes

And to connect to that, the next point is to make sure you do share those successes. Tall poppy syndrome is such a huge thing, and it really does frustrate me because some people are doing amazing things, and they don't want to talk about it because they're frightened that somebody wants to knock them down.

If you don't share your successes with the people in your network group, you're just another beige business to them. Let them know what you're doing well. Let them know what you're celebrating. Let them know what's going on exceptionally in your team, and your great team members as well. Don't let them pinch your team members though. Make sure you look after your team along the way. But share your successes in your network group, so they gain that sense of pride that you have for your business. Your network group have that same sense of pride for your business that you have.

11. Create linkage

And then finally, when you're working in your network groups, create linkage to their business. Make sure that you, whatever you do and that whoever you're networking with in your network group, you can create what their business does, and link it to what your business does. So you actually have one story to tell, and that will grow your network awareness. That will grow your network business, and it'll strengthen the trust and the partnership that you should have with a network group.

I'm Caroline Lovett. I'm from Credible Source Solutions. My website is crediblesource.com.au. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

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