“Networking – that’s not for me. Cheesy American rubbish! You can’t get business just by chatting to people, besides I’ve got better things to do with my time. Trust me; it will never catch on…”
I’ve had all these thrown at me in the past and I still probably hear one similar phrase a week dismissing networking as new age nonsense.
But let’s look at this a bit closer and see whether networking is new or American, or whether it even works.
Networking isn’t new; it is in fact one of the oldest forms of advertising and business communication in the world.
We rely heavily on adverts on TV, radio and in print now, but before these mediums of communication, how do you think people would get business?
Merchant traders, like Marco Polo, would travel the world and once they arrived in a country they would begin trading with other merchants. But in order to keep exchanging business in that location they would have relied on word of mouth referrals and networking. They would have asked the people they were trading with who they knew to see if they could trade with them as well. It’s quite a brief version of trading history, but can you think of any other method of business communication that would have helped these merchants to become successful other than through word of mouth?
Even since TV, radio and print advertising has been around, this type of marketing hasn’t always been accessible to every business and yet they have still been very successful. 25 years ago, solicitors weren’t allowed to advertise, but there were still plenty of legal practices around and they succeeded because they built their business on word of mouth referrals and networking. We could go on about all the business empires built on referral marketing but that would take another blog…
It looks like networking isn’t new or American, but, does it work? The answer is yes.
Only 1 in 7 people buy a product or service that hasn’t been recommended to them and more often than not, people prefer to be personally introduced to someone who will be able to help them solve a problem rather than searching for the right person to assist them.
When Neil Giller from Central Direct Mail wanted an introduction to the FD of a football club he didn’t ring up the club and ask for a meeting because he knew that wouldn’t work. Instead, he asked his network for an introduction and a networking colleague was able to take Neil to lunch with the FD. Networking opens doors that cold calling can’t.
You get out of networking what you put into it, but with a bit of effort, networking can help you win new clients or customers and build a better business.
So, networking isn’t new, it isn’t particularly American and it works. It has well and truly caught on and is here to stay. So, best get networking!