The 4 keys to successful networking for business generation

Well, we are heading to the year end and fast approaching 2019. As I look back on our year, I revisited a stat from a previous post – namely that the majority of our new business came from networking both informally and formally. This was driven from a shift in our business to have a more joined-up approach to our networking (both technology enabled and the human touch) which started with a fundamental question….which of course seems obvious now but for too long was not taken seriously enough. The question was this:

What are the best vehicles for our business to effectively network, make meaningful connections, attract true interest and lead to a higher level of business conversion?

Before we tackled the questions we were running to each new ‘fashionable’ tool as the Holy Grail for networking and lead generation. It was indeed tempting to want to do everything on Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, Wiebo, Pinterest, WhatsApp, hangouts etc etc – in fact whatever the buzz seemed to be about that particularly month / year / day. Our thinking was based on the “everyone else is doing it, so we have to do something similar…& quickly” school of thought.  You know where I am heading…It quickly became apparent there were fundamental flaws in this approach and the need for research, learning, best practice input and a far more specific approach was now alarmingly obvious.

We realised we had been slaves to technology and had almost forgotten how to connect human-to-human.  Technology become everything rather than being the enabler. This was the big mistake.

Technology is not everything of course and as you can see we learned the hard way to filter out the noise and find the tools / techniques appropriate to our business. We are in the Learning and Development industry and realised that we had to be pickier – and, due to the nature of the business we are in, ensure we have a strong Human Touch at heart of how we connect and network. Whether in the Cloud or at an event. It’s not so different across other industries I am sure…

18 months on and with a successful track record of change in approach behind us, here are the top 4 key approaches that have made the biggest difference to us in terms of meaningful networking and the generation of actual business:

a) Alignment of our technologies, social tools & activities
We started by filtering out the social tools and technologies that were not adding value to our business. We were left with Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and EDM campaigns joined up to our social sites, website and lead generation database. Before this shift we were happily sending ad hoc EDMs, occasionally updating our website, independently managing our own social media interactions and, ultimately, scratching our heads in wonder at why we were not getting any leads coming in, or any business generation upsides, above and beyond our sales efforts. Hello!

Our new approach is evolving and is now glued together. Linking our EDM activities and key insights for customers / prospects, aligned across all our platforms, enabled by a revamped website to capture data, helping us to engage in ‘real-time’ with our target audiences where interest was highlighted. Some data to back up how this joined-up approach has provided us with measureable results.

Twitter and Linked In followers have increased by 380%

Website visits and individual page views increased by over 105%

On average, around 20 warmed leads per month coming directly from our campaigns, through our website compared to less than 5 before.

This certainly feels like we are on a more successful track. We will continue to fine-tune and evolve the approach but the data speaks for itself. Planning and getting it all glued together is a recipe for success.

b) Linked In as our most successful social connection, lead and business generation tool.
Being more aligned and having a consistent approach to our posts, groups and reaching out to like-minded professionals, has enabled us to target our messaging much better and lead with “Insights” in our sharing and discussion threads to generate contributing comments, new connections and then informal discussions – often leading to more formalised meetings face to face. We have learned to plan this well over a medium term road map, rather than short term bursts and then silence and then another burst. We learned you have to put the work in! It doesn’t happen by itself, but the more thought and planning you put in, the higher degree of connections you can attract (ie through rolling posts like this) and the more new conversations you can open. Then it’s down to you!

c) We no longer pay to sponsor or attend major industry events (regionally and locally) and favour smaller boutique events at both industry level and those generated by ourselves (ie Breakfasts, Expert Sessions etc). Borrowing a useful metaphor from Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book this changed the game for us and helped us move from being a “small fish in a big pond” to a “bigger fish in smaller pond”. It has helped us open up more meaningful network connections with a quicker transfer from informal to formalised business discussions. When comparing our number of leads generated a large events to these smaller events, of course there was a difference in favour of then larger events. But these leads were more general. For our new Boutique approach our leads have been more specific and our ‘voice’ is louder. If we even out the data the measurable success rate due to this shift in approach has generated 30% more specific leads and just over 25% more business conversions when compared to our previous approach. A third more higher-quality leads, leading to 1 in 4 more conversions.  I’ll take it thanks!

 

d) EDM campaigns joined up to our social sites, website and lead generation database. This has been relatively new for us, it pains me to say. Before now we were happily sending ad hoc EDMs, occasionally updating our website, independently managing our own social media interactions and, ultimately, scratching our heads in wonder at why we were not getting any leads coming in or any business generation upsides, above and beyond our sales efforts.

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