5 Ways to Build Your Business Network
This story was updated on 1/30/2023.
Business development strategies and tactics have changed dramatically in the past few decades. Cold calling? Forget it. If you are unknown, you likely won’t get past caller ID. Unsolicited e-mail? You may be filtered as junk or spam.
Today, successful business development is contingent upon building trusted relationships and leveraging them to meet new prospects. These relationships form the backbone of your business network, so it's vital that you continuously grow and nurture them.
Here are five ways to build and leverage your business network to grow your business.
1. Always Seek Referrals
Your customers almost certainly know colleagues like themselves who need your product or service, so it’s perfectly acceptable to ask them for a referral and request permission to use their name for an introduction.
With a referred contact in hand and a trusted customer as backup, you can then make your phone call or send an email. Once your prospect hears or sees the name of their colleague, you will have a much greater chance of success in your initial contact.
2. Use Testimonials
Your customers are your most important advocates, so don’t be afraid to ask them if they would be willing to provide a testimonial about your product or service. They’ll likely agree because they want you and your business to succeed—particularly because it reinforces their decision to use your product or service.
The testimonial may be a simple quote or a longer case study demonstrating how your product or service solved their problem. Once you’ve secured the testimonial, you need to find vehicles for publication. In addition to posting it on your website, search for and identify publications or sites that would be interested in sharing the testimonial or case study.
3. Participate in Industry Meetings
Believe it or not, face-to-face meetings are not obsolete. Participating in industry meetings, conferences, and tradeshows is a great way to nurture relationships with colleagues and meet new people.
If your industry has a national trade association, join it and participate in their meetings. If your product or service is used locally, join your area’s Chamber of Commerce and attend their meetings. Because it can be costly to participate in meetings, maximize the impact of attending by setting up one-on-one meetings in advance and identifying other ways to increase your participation and visibility—look for speaking opportunities, sponsor a coffee break, or organize an educational workshop, for example.
Publishing a blog on your company website is an excellent way for your customers and prospects to get to know you, your business philosophy, and your company’s products and services. Blogs also allow commentary and interaction, which is helpful for forging new relationships and growing your business network.
Your blog is a place where you can demonstrate your expertise or share industry updates. And, if you use the right keywords, your blog can show up in search engines and generate organic traffic to your site.
5. Be Social
Grow your business network by using social media sites and apps such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and online networking communities. However, before you jump into social media, you need to fully understand the medium, how it works, and how you can use it to benefit your business. For example, LinkedIn is a great place to start networking with others in the industry, while Twitter can complement your blog.
As you use a combination of tried-and-true business development tactics along with social media strategies, you’ll find that your business network will grow—as will your company.
Tom Ricci is the owner of Ricci Communications.
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