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.

5 productivity lessons from my life as a business traveller

productivity

I am on another flight, in another seat, on a different airline, sitting next to a mix cultures, generations and assorted folk with assorted purposes. One thing, however, is a constant after my near 15 years of constant business travel. My laptop is open, I am working, I am listening to music to drown out the crying parents and screaming kids (usually interchangeable) and, yet, I am focused. I get a lot of work done up here at around 14,000 metres. I also get a lot done in the hotels I stay at, the airport terminals I find myself in and various other locations where I can connect with my devices or take out my laptop and get some real work done. Funnily enough I am at my most productive out and about. It’s a state of mind – a can-do attitude and it most certainly impacted how I have developed myself as a Professional and as a Leader. It’s not always been the case, with tough lessons learned on the way. Here are the top 5 pointers that have helped me stay productive, wherever I am:

  • Start with a clear purpose, every day
    When I am travelling, I know I have an hour here and there, a few hours flying, 30 minutes in a hotel reception. It focuses the mind. I can filter the distractions and do I what need to do.
  • Learn to filter out the noise
    It’s noisy on a plane, in a terminal, on a train, at a hotel reception area etc – Add to this the multiple demands and items on your list and it all adds up to a lot of noise. In these situations we have to be focused on doing what we need to do, rather than what we want to do.
  • Time for your business, yourself, your team, your family
    Getting points 1 and 2 right help manage this point. The curse of the business traveller can be the “always on” switch. Days blend into nights and into a mind-set of how perfect the time is to get work done – its dead time after all. True – to a point. But no one is good to anyone burned out. Leave time for the other important things:
    i) Instead of planes and hotels in faceless cities, I now ensure I engage better with my surroundings – it’s good for the heart and the head.
    ii) My team need time to talk, seek input and share. It is easier now than ever to stay connected and Skype + Go-To-Meeting are my best friends for staying in touch.
    iii) I spend more quality time with my family than I ever did. The pressures are still the same, it is just that I have learned with experience, feedback and practice to manage myself and my time differently.
  • Attitude is everything
    As a business traveller in these ultra connected times I know I can find space, do what I need and get to the important things. This helps me define my purpose, eliminate distractions and engage my positive productivity mind-set.
  • Everyone needs help – It was scary to be found wanting a few years ago and I realised that it didn’t matter how ‘senior’ I had become, I needed some coaching and advice. I wholeheartedly entered into it. This approach helped me balance socially & emotionally, commercially & operationally. Not necessarily in that order!  I couldn’t recommend it more to Leaders and Managers at any level. It has made a profound difference to me. Never be too proud to ask for feedback or help – you never know what benefits it can bring, particularly in terms of personal productivity and, perhaps, the positive knock-on effect to the productivity of your team.

How can this 5-point productivity plan help you? I’d like to hear your thoughts and productivity war stories. We all have them!