Building Trust through Networking
Networking is not just about making connections and creating awareness of your business. It’s also about forming an alliance of credible professionals to help you fill organizational gaps and be able to confidently refer others.
You Cannot be All Things to All People
Building an alliance of proven experts will help you augment areas outside your own expertise and enable you to offer more to your customers.
For example, we occasionally need a commercial photographer. We don’t have one -in-house, but I know a guy. Quality printing at an affordable price? I know a guy. We build websites, but occasionally need a seasoned developer to do some heavier lifting. Luckily, I know a guy. SEO? Social media channel management? We do some and can certainly help you make the right decisions. But, if you need a full-blown campaign, I know a guy.
All of this makes our clients’ lives a lot easier, serves our business better and enhances our reputation.
You’re Only as Good as Those You Surround Yourself with
Your network should never be limited to only those who can directly help you. Your own contacts, clients, friends and family have needs beyond what you can offer. If they trust you, they’ll reach out to you for recommendations. Your valued judgment will serve as their pre-qualifier.
A colleague of ours is in the process of relocating their office. They reached out to me for referrals of moving companies. Luckily, I have a rep in one of my groups and was well aware of their track record of success. While we never used them ourselves, I was confident in referring them. Things are worked out well for both.
Will I get more business out of it? Maybe, maybe not. But you cannot put a dollar value on that level of trust.
Beware of Fishing in the Wrong Pond
One key to networking successfully is to not get trapped in the wrong groups or creating false alliances. If your business is B2B, membership in a group that’s mostly B2C might not provide many opportunities to gain referrals and build trust. If you’re in a category-exclusive group, don’t fall into the trap of referring fellow members solely because they’re fellow members and you need to meet a quota. That’s the antithesis of good networking. If your personal accountant has served you well and you have no experience with the one in your group, which would you refer? Remember, your recommendation is a reflection of your judgment. Your reputation is not something to risk with unknowns.
Try Sharing Instead of Selling
So, how do you get others to trust you with their business if they haven’t tried you? One way is to teach them. Instead of using your 60-second commercial to be all about you, try offering helpful advice. If you regularly teach others, you are indirectly selling by sharing your expertise. That has far greater value than a self-serving commercial. When referral opportunities do arise, even those who haven’t personally used your product or services will think back to the times they learned from you and be more inclined to pass along their trusted contact.
Another approach is to share client testimonials. Nothing promotes your business better than the words of others. Sharing a client success story can be very powerful and begin to make it easier for others to refer, even if they haven’t personally engaged you.
In closing, networking will not grow your business without first building trust among your potential referral sources. So, the next time you’re at a networking event, instead of viewing people as prospects, ask yourself how you can build their trust and become a part of their referral system. Becoming “that guy they know” is the big prize.
I recently visited the websites of some of the top design firms in the world. It was both inspiring and, truth be told, slightly intimidating. However, despite that, I did notice one consistent problem with a majority of them.
If we all avoid the shortsighted allure of bigger, quicker margins, and keep our eyes focused on building relationships and delivering high-quality products and services, we can reverse these trends and secure the futures of each of our industries.
In many ways, your website is the face of our business. It’s usually your first and best opportunity to distinguish yourself, connect with your prospects and tell your story. If it’s not engaging, well-designed, easy to navigate and informative, it could undermine your marketing efforts.
We’ve collected a number of the more salient points from our blog and are presenting them as a marketing reality check list. A good number of these apply to new or small businesses. But you’ll also find that some of the largest corporations in the world make many of the same missteps.
We often get too close to our business to see it the way others do. We build a virtual bubble around ourselves and lose the perspective needed to make sound strategic decisions.
When you meet new prospects, network or attend industry events, the moment you hand out your business card, your credibility will be on the line. If you’ve taken a long time to build a first-rate reputation, don’t let a second-rate website undo it.