Using Networking as a Marketing Tool
By Craig Wagener D.Optom, MBA, PhD
Networking is often overlooked by business owners when engaging in marketing their
Traditional forms of marketing, e.g. newspaper advertising, brochures, flyers, mailers,
TV commercials, and radio spots, work well when planned and implemented correctly.
However, advertising through these mediums can be expensive and time-consuming. Sometimes
the initial approach does not work well, and strategies may need fine-tuning in order
to get a satisfactory return on the marketing investment.
Business owners often wonder how they can ‘drive more feet in the door’ and often
only think of traditional marketing methods as a means to an end. However, there
are various options to market a business that is more effective and less expensive.
One of those methods is face-to-face, network marketing. Maybe as a business entrepreneur,
you are already using networking as a marketing tool and don’t realize it.
Not to be confused with multi-level marketing, wherein the goal is not necessarily
to move products and services, but to construct hierarchies where people are recruited
to “sell” for an upper tier “seller,” network marketing connects business people
in a non-intrusive way and forms an agreement of cooperation that benefits both sides.
Networking develops new business relationships and reinforces others. Networking
provides an opportunity to learn about other businesses and the complementary products
and services that can provide consumers with more attractive offers.
Below are specific and proven ways networking can develop your business.
Join the local Chamber of Commerce, almost every city has one. Attend meetings on
a regular basis. Meet people and start talking. Develop alliances and set up a referral
system. Listen and learn from other leaders in your business community. Every business
has common factors that apply to all businesses. Some of their ideas may be good
for your business too, or you may have to innovate upon their ideas.
Sometimes networking can help your business in other ways. It’s not just about referrals.
Other business enterprises may have some experience in areas that affect your business,
e. g. instituting employee benefit programs like 401K plans for your staff or purchasing
and leasing issues etc.
There are many groups that provide education and training as well as opportunities
to support your immediate community, such as Lions Club, Rotary Club, Toastmasters,
etc., or volunteer organizations like Salvation Army, Hospice etc. These organizations
are an excellent place to meet new people while serving others and will establish
your company as one interested in the health and success of the community.
There are also some closed groups whose aim is to network people and bring them together.
www.Meetup.com has many types of groups to choose from that connect business owners.
Search Google “Lead Groups” in your area.
www.LeTip.com is a networking group that caters to grouping people together. They
only allow one company from each industry to participate in each group. You can search
for a group that will fit your specific needs or start a group.
www.BNI.com is a networking group that operates in a similar manner to LeTip.com.
Both organizations have training programs for marketing in an effective manner. The
only downside, of course, is that a business is limited to one group.
Again, network marketing is a tool that can be used to quickly enhance not only the
marketing of your business but also adds complementary products and services. Actively
engaging with other business owners will prove lucrative in the growth and name brand
of your business and possibly enhance public perception.