Let’s face it, times are tough for many of us at the moment. Fresh members tell me that they’re worried about increasing costs and decreasing customer spending, and I’m sure we all know someone who’s anxious about their business. It’s at times like these I encourage you to think of networking as a tool to get through the tough times and succeed where others are struggling.
How do you do that? Well, here are my ten tips on how to supercharge your networking in tough times and use it to help you come out on top.
1. Remember your community – people join networks not just for referrals, but because they want to be part of a community. So when times are tough, don’t lose sight of the basics – your network can provide friendship, a listening ear, people to bounce ideas off and expert advice. It’s all there, you just need to reach out and access it.
2. Stay visible – networking gets you seen, so don’t be tempted to ‘fade away’ into the background by dialling down your activity.
3. Track your results – monitoring real data, rather than getting carried away by ‘what ifs’ and speculation is a great way to calm an anxious business mind. It helps you to re-evaluate, and answer all those questions in your head – why is my business quiet at the moment? Is this something really unusual, or just a variation on a regular up and down cycle? Have I taken my foot off the pedal? In my travel business, I remember being worried that things were really quiet during school holidays, until my data showed me that this was a regular pattern – no-one buys a holiday whilst they’re already on holiday. Once I knew what I was dealing with, I built a networking plan, and saw enquiries increase, with sales following six months afterwards. So track your results, use the data and focus on what you can control.
4. Build momentum – we start something new full of enthusiasm, then as it becomes routine, we lose that initial spark and just go through the motions. When times are tough, re-focus and re-generate that spark and energy. Show up to your hub full of vim and vigour, visit other hubs, go to social events and have those oh so valuable one on one Get Fresh meetings. The more people you meet, the more chances of referrals you create. There is always opportunity – and the people who succeed are the ones who put in the greatest effort to find it. People like Mark Dean of our Mordialloc hub, who visited the Richmond/South Melbourne hub, and met a guest who is set to generate some great business referrals. Or Emily Potter of the Abbotsford hub, who receives the majority of her referrals from visiting other hubs.
5. Review your networking needs – Fresh offers so many chances to connect – if you’re a cafe or national member, is this the time to upgrade to Dual Pass, to make more connections? If you’ve not yet joined, think about our Fresh Starter package as a taster. Or come along to a speed networking or luncheon event – you might just meet your next referral connection, as a conveyancer attendee did recently.
6. Have a goal – you can’t know if you’re succeeding unless you have a goal. So set yourself a business target, and then build a networking plan to achieve it. For example, I set myself a target of two new holiday bookings a month, worked out how many new people I’d have to meet, and then used my network to find them.
7. Tweak what you talk about – when times are tough, consider whether you can review what you talk about in your ‘Time to Shine’ at meetings? Can you adapt your offerings, so that you have an entry level offering to attract more referrals from cost-conscious prospects?
8. Keep calm and carry on marketing – it’s those who invest during the tough times who come out on top – I saw it first hand at Flight Centre in the aftermath of 9/11, when the business invested in marketing domestic travel, and thrived as other travel companies floundered. Networking is one of the most cost-effective approaches there is – not only does it generate sustainable results, but it’s accountable, trackable and affordable. So please don’t be tempted to stop marketing, especially networking.
9. Pin on a smile – no matter how you’re feeling on the inside, present a positive face – there’s nothing that kills referrals quicker than a whiff of desperation. Show up with a smile at meetings, encourage others and actively engage with your fellow members. If you’re a visitor, we encourage you not to be a ‘hub hopper’, but instead to make a commitment, pick your hub and start to build relationships.
10. Partner up – with such a fabulous network available to you, consider whether there’s an opportunity to join forces with another member to boost both your businesses in tough times. If you are a based in Victoria, say, could you team up with a fellow member in NSW, to pass each other referrals? Could you write a guest article for another member’s newsletter and vice versa? Think strategically about how you can leverage each other’s skills and contacts.
Networking puts you in front of people, and creates opportunity that simply doesn’t happen if you stay tied to your desk. So follow my ten tips and make sure that networking is your secret weapon to get through the tough times stronger than ever.
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