Thursday, November 25, 2010

Establishing Your Business Network

The business network is one of the most valuable tools that any business can possess. While having a great business idea and or product can get you rolling, the connections you make with the business world are what keep you going. Business networks don't just fall in your lap, either. They are something every business owner needs to work on developing and refining.
Build your network
The initial creation of your business and its products and services can lead us to focus on developing these aspects, while neglecting the development of growth. Business networks allow us to reach out to others and help our business grow- and the effect is mutual. This two-way street is important to keep in mind. While it may seem that someone is valuable to you, they will need to see you as a beneficial network to them as well. So keep in mind that you have to bring value to the table, too.
Interact with established business networks
One of the best places to start your own networking is with those that are already searching for their own business networks. Whether it's online or local, there are groups whose primary purpose is to network. These meetings can be regular or casual, but it is imperative that if you join. You must create an image that others want to work with (be courteous to others).
Online, you can use your own media sources, such as your web page, social media accounts, and business forums to interact with others. While networking with other business is important, there are often individuals, some you man know and others you may meet, out there that can help you in your business venture. Always keep an eye out for future network opportunities, wherever they may exist.
Network with the right people
When you network for your business, it's all about meeting people. But, it is important to remember that not everybody is going to be able to offer your business a valuable asset (advice, connections, benefits), so you need to spend your time wisely. Stick with connecting to those that are going to provide a value to your business and avoid spending precious time with those who won't benefit you (or even hold you back). This keeps your network flowing smoothly, preventing any cholesterol from clogging up the arteries of your business.
Making the connection
Handing out a business card or your e-mail address isn't the only step to networking. In business, relationships are developed with an investment of time, just like a friendship. You can't hand out your name and expect folks to immediately bond with you- so you talk to them. You work at building a relationship of trust by continuously interacting with them. Social media is an awesome business device, so take advantage of it. If you have profiles on Facebook and Twitter, make sure you keep up with them and interact with your fellow networkers as well. Discussion and advice are usually common on forums, so make sure you get in there and get involved with your networks.
Building your business involves more than just the business itself, it's also about those around you. What can they do for you, and what can you do for them- develops a relationship. These business networks are precious to a growing business, allowing new doors to open in every direction, and thus helping us grow towards success.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Business Network Versus Social Network

There is a big problem when it comes to doing business online.
Every day another opportunity, another choice.....What do you do?
The problem with Internet marketing is the mind-boggling scope of all the programs and choices for putting a small home business into a global market. It can be like throwing a lamb into a lion's den. Many people lose their way just from the overwhelming number of choices available for finding effective online sales training.
As Todd Oldfield, a friend of mine, says, "Chase one rabbit at a time! If you attempt to chase two rabbits at the same time you will not capture any!"
So are there any best social networking sites for business?
Or is a first-rate business marketing platform the best choice?
Social networks are the buzz of the Internet. Ask anyone about the best social networking sites for business and they will say either Facebook or Google. But are they the best for your business?
Google and Facebook are currently in a sparring contest to see who can come out on top. While hundreds of smaller social networks scramble for a piece of the social networking pie. Does this work for your business?
First of all, let's take a look at a business network. LinkedIn differentiates itself as one of the best business networking sites for businesses and professions. In fact, you would not join LinkedIn solely for socializing like you do social networks. LinkedIn has a free membership, as well as more features available with a paid membership. The paid memberships start at $29.95 per month and go up to $75.95 per month.
The paid memberships give you the ability to see more profiles, send messages to anyone on LinkedIn, find out who has viewed your profile, and see expanded profiles on anyone in LinkedIn.
You will still need to add other sites to round out your business platform. You will need a place to hold meetings, to host events, develop a business forum, and do video marketing.
What does Facebook have to offer the business person?
The recent changes to Facebook have made it more business friendly. Facebook is a good place to build relationships, find like-minded people, and join business groups. Facebook engages over a million people and is therefore a great place for finding customers and business associates.
Google offers similar features plus a "hang-out" room where you can meet up to ten people at a time. Also with Google you can create several email accounts and use each one for a different purpose.
In the offline world when you take a break from the office you head down to the local coffee shop and strike up conversations. Or you use the coffee shop to meet clients and discuss a business proposal. Well Facebook, for the online business person, is like the coffee shop. It is a place to increase your circle of friends and build trusting relationships.
What if you could take breaks at the coffee shop and then consolidate all your business sites into one online business community? This business community would be your office dedicated to doing business.
It would be a first-rate business marketing platform where you have everything you need at your finger tips. A global online business network that offers such things as:
  • Event hosting and scheduling
  • Meeting rooms for small and large groups
  • One on one chat rooms
  • Video conferencing
  • Video email
  • Business specific forums
  • Personal and business profiles
  • Internal networking like LinkedIn

Monday, November 15, 2010

Business Networking 101 - Effective Networking Strategies

There is really no secret to building your network of contacts. There are a lot of resources out there giving tips and tricks on building business networks and expanding your realm of influence, but there are some basic principals to follow that can have a significant impact on how successful your networking events and strategies are. Paying attention to the basic details is often a more effective approach than using any "secrets."
What is the point of business networking? It is the process of building relationships with complementary businesses, business owners, and business managers to increase your influence and position within a specific market or industry. There are two points to take away here - building relationships and increasing influence and position. Relationships will naturally increase your influence, and influence creates opportunity and improved market position.
The most important value in business is the relationships that are built. Customers, clients, vendors, and colleagues all shape the relationships within a business. Like any other area in life, the quality of the relationships can have a huge impact on the outcome of your interactions with existing and potential clients, vendor/reseller relations, and every other aspect of your daily operations. Focus on building and maintaining positive relationships with your contacts (both within and outside of your company) you will quickly begin to increase your influence with your contacts.
How do you practically build good relationships with new contacts? There is balance and communication to work on. All relationships tend to follow a similar tract: introduction, follow-up, acquaintance, interaction, commitment. There is room between each stage for varying degrees of influence, but most relationships in business tend to fall somewhere in these five categories.
In the introduction stage, you first meet the contact, give some overviews about yourself, find out who they are, exchange contact info, and independently decide whether or not the person is worth a follow-up action. If there is the potential to have a mutually beneficial relationship, or the new contact can possibly benefit you, request permission to follow-up with that person. If you can benefit them, let them know that you would be open to a follow-up communication.
The follow-up communication is where most individuals drop the ball. It is difficult to make time in a busy schedule to get in front of your computer with the intent to follow-up on potential leads or new contacts. If you don't follow up correctly, a few things can happen:
1) you can loose out on a potential referral,
2) you could loose out on a potential client,
3) you loose out on a opportunity to get connected to a whole different network of contacts, and
4) you can loose credibility by not following up when you expressed an interest to.
If networking for increasing influence and position within a market is important to you, then follow-up opportunities should be created, not missed.
If you can get through the follow-up process, your hope is for a favorable response from the people you contact. When favorable replies are made (either by phone or email), you gain an opportunity to create an acquaintance with the contact. This is the real first step in developing a relationship. At this stage, you have made a favorable enough first impression to engage someone a second time, so use this opportunity to win them over. This third step is usually the opportunity to give out some usable information, such as potential leads for each of you, or a request for proposal (or a request to offer a proposal) for services.
Once you have had a few interactions with your contacts, you begin to develop an acquaintance with them. At this point, you both know each other and each others businesses, but you aren't close with them yet. You may or may not have had any business dealings with them, but they are at least on your radar for future deals, or as someone who you can send referrals to. Most business relationships don't grow past this phase, but if you continue to follow up with them and remain in contact, often times you will either get a lead or be able to give a lead to someone you stay in contact with.
The final step in the business relationship process is developing a commitment with the new contact. This doesn't have to be any formal commitment, but typically means that you both agree to continue interacting with one another. Hopefully the commitment comes in the form of a new customer or a referral that turns into a client, but either way, you have built a new business relationship that will only grow from here. It is important to not loose contact with individuals in this stage of the business relationship because they can often be the most influential people in your growing network.