5 Ways to Build Your Business Network

Sep 9, 2011

by Tom Ricci ASME.org

Business development strategies and tactics have changed dramatically in the past decade. The telephone is nearly obsolete for making an initial contact with a potential customer, as is postal mail. Cold calling? Forget it. If you are unknown, you won’t get past caller ID. Unsolicited e-mail? You’ll be blocked as a spammer.

Today, successful business development is contingent upon building trusted relationships and leveraging those relationships to meet new prospects. These relationships form the backbone of your business network. It is vital that you continuously grow and nurture these relationships, as a large percentage of your business growth will come from your business network.

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. It is 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 back up, you can then make your telephone call or send an email to gain an introduction. Once your prospect hears or sees the name of his or her colleague, you will have a much greater chance of success in your introductory contact.

2. Use Testimonials Your customers are your most important advocates. Ask them if they would be willing to provide a testimonial about your product or service. They most likely will 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 that demonstrates how your product or service solved their problem. Once you’ve secured the testimonial, you need to find vehicles to publish it. It should be posted on your website. You should also search and identify publications or sites that would be interested in publishing the case study.

3. Participate in Industry Meetings Believe it or not, face-to-face meetings are not dead. Participating in industry meetings, conferences, and tradeshowsis a greatway to nurture relationships with colleagues, network, 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 is costly to attend meetings, maximize the impact of attending by attempting to set up one-on-one meetings in advance and identify other ways to increase your participation and visibility at the meeting: look for speaking opportunities, sponsor a coffee break, or organize an educational workshop.

4. Blog Everybody seems to have one or is talking about creating one, and for good reason. Publishing a personal blog on your company website is a great way for your customers and prospects to get to know you, your business philosophy, and your company, products, and services. Blogs also allow commentary and enable interaction, which is how you can forge new relationships and grow your business network. Your Blog is a place where you can share anecdotes that demonstrate your expertise or your position on a controversial industry topic. And, it will generate traffic to your site as search engines now identify keywords in blogs.

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. LinkedIn is a great place to start and grow your business network. Twitter is a microblogging site that will complement your blog.

Using a combination of tried-and-true business development tactics along with new social media strategies, your business network will grow, as will your company.

Tom Ricci is the owner of Ricci Communications.

Today, successful business development is contingent upon building trusted relationships and leveraging those relationships to meet new prospects.

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