Networking is an essential growth strategy for any small (even large) business. However, there is an essential difference between having a strategy and how you implement it and many small businesses try networking with little success.
One of the main reasons can be that, although they go out and network with many new businesses, they fail to define how they will network and who they want to network with.
There is a great book by Andy Bounds called “The Jelly Effect”, where he suggests that businesses should approach networking a bit like going fishing. What he means is that whether you go to a networking event or you are building your network there are a couple of different types of ‘fish’ that you will want to meet and you should tailor your approach accordingly.
When developing your networking strategy, he believes that there are two main groups that you should be targeting:
Your Big Fish – These are the people or groups that are potential referral hubs ie. those businesses that you could build mutually beneficial relationships such that over time you may be able to cross refer. For example, if you are an independent financial advisor (IFA) then a good ‘big fish’ for you may be an accountancy firm who has many clients that will have financial and investment needs. Similarly, the IFA may have many clients who run their own businesses and will need the help of a great account.
Your Little Fish – These are your target clients, the businesses that you would ideally want to do business with.
Why is this helpful? Well, I am sure that you haver been to many events where everyone is out to ‘sell’ something as they are only looking for little fish. From this and other sources, I am sure that you have learnt that ‘selling’ right from the start at a networking event is a bit of a no-no. After all, it’s all about building relationships. Imagine if you were always onto your close friends and trying to ‘sell’ them something. How long would your relationships with them last?
So, having a networking strategy that focuses on building new relationships will be helped enormously by defining who it is you are looking to meet – both the Big and Little Fish. Doing this and understanding why you want to build a relationship with them should help make your networking more productive.
I’ll leave you with a question: have you figured out who your Big Fish and Little Fish are?
I look forward to your thoughts.
Adrian Swinscoe is a business growth consultant who writes about cost-effective, customer-focused business growth at Ideas for Business Growth. He has a strong belief that any established business could dispense with its traditional marketing activities and still grow itself by focusing on developing and nurturing its existing customer base and retaining its current clients. Why not connect with him on Twitter @adrianswinscoe, LinkedIn or if you liked this article then why not subscribe to his RSS Feed
Image kindly provided by Kasperbs.