Make Regular Networking Part Of Your Business Marketing Plan

Being a small business owner with a limited budget can make marketing a difficult task.

small business financeYou cannot afford to throw money at flashy marketing campaigns and need to make sure that the time spent and every dollar spent gets a return – that it generates profitable business.

You have to be smarter than the big corporate’s!

Word Of Mouth Marketing Really Works

Now we also know that word of mouth marketing works.

Practically everyone knows how important word of mouth is and yet very few people include this in their marketing plans as they do not know how to develop it effectively.

Having clients and business associates referring people to you and/or endorsing you is the best way to get more business. The people referred to you are already willing to do business with you so you can get on with helping them rather than having to convince them to deal with you first.

Some people now rely on social media like Facebook to ‘share’ good news stories and offers, but word of mouth marketing really works better when you are face to face with potential customers.

WOM 9 10

Marketing experts tell us that currently only about 10% of word of mouth conversations about brands happens online, meaning 90% still happen as real people speak to each other in real conversations. The good news for small business people is they can be just as effective as the big corporates at getting people talking about their brand – if they have a plan.

So how do you really develop and supercharge word of mouth marketing?

Build Relationships To Build Sales

Small business owners generally are sole operators or have small teams and therefore have to be flexible and willing to do everything within the business which includes the sales and marketing role.

Many small business owners are great at the “stuff” they do, but are not good at telling people what it is they do. They are not good at marketing their businesses.

One of the best ways to market any business is to have a network of people that know your business, know the types of customers you are looking for and can therefore find those customers for you.

Wouldn’t it be easier to build strong relationships with a small group of people than trying to “sell” to the masses?

That is why I joined Business Network International (BNI) when I was offered the chance, and it is also why I would encourage any small business owner to seriously consider getting involved in regular networking groups and

Business Network International

business networkingWhat Is BNI?

BNI (Business Network International) is a business and professional networking organisation that allows only one person from each profession to join any group or chapter. There are currently 126 chapters in New Zealand and some 2,650 members with a number currently under formation. Worldwide there are over 160,000 members in over 6,500 chapters in 55 countries.


Unlike other networking groups, BNI provides its members with a structure and a plan to enable them to network in a deliberate and professional manner. It is structured weekly networking breakfast which focuses on learning and positive business outcomes.

A breakfast networking meeting follows a structured agenda as follows;

  • The event starts at 7 AM and finishes at 8:30 AM and follow a strict agenda
  • The group has an education officer whose job is to spend a few minutes biding some educational type that may be useful to the group members
  • Every member gets 60 seconds to talk about their business or something specific that they want to share this is your chance to train the other members so they can promote your business while they are out doing the business
  • All members get to do a 10 minute presentation on a rotational basis for 10 minutes presentation is your chance to explain your business in more detail the other members as a group
  • Prior to the conclusion of each weekly meeting there is ace session where you pass Referrals between membership of course you may pass Referrals on in between meetings is appropriate we measure the number of referrals and the business generated from those referrals to ensure that we have some way of measuring the success of the business and the bit for the group
  • Prior to the commencement of the meeting and at the conclusion of the meeting there is good opportunity to meet and mingle with the other members
  • Members are also encouraged to meet outside of the meeting to learn more about each other’s businesses

Fish Out Of WaterRegular Networking Is The Key

A lot of people feel like a fish out of water when they attend networking events and that is where structured meetings like BNI make networking a lot easier. The members are real people like you, and they’re always keen to have new members join as each person becomes an extension of their word of mouth sales team.

Meeting weekly works best as it keeps the concept of finding referrals for other top of mind. I admit when I first joined BNI I thought that the commitment to meet each and every week was too much effort, but I have been in networking groups which meet less often and definitely have had more success from BNI than any other networking group or event.

The Power Of Your New Sales Team

For many small business owners and especially sole operators or people running businesses out of their homes, just getting out there and prospecting can take up a lot of your time.

You are a small business with a limited budget so are not able to throw much money at marketing and therefore joining a networking group is often a very good option.

When you join a networking group like BNI you are able to connect with other business people that are able to help you build your business. You can empower the members of a group to be your new sales team and look out for business opportunities for you. In many cases there are businesses that can naturally work together and you can take advantage of those opportunities and align your business with others that can refer business to you.

There are huge benefits in referral business.

Referral Business Is The Best Business

When you get referred to someone for a product or service there is automatically an element of trust – the “selling” aspect is removed.

If someone tells me that I should us ABC Plumbing, then chances are I will use them

without looking at other options and without being critical on price.

People refer other people because they want to help.

Networking groups like BNI help nurture the art of giving referrals.

The key thing with any networking group is to get involved with a group that has a good number of members and a lot of energy at the meetings. Unfortunately most networking groups only allow one person from each profession and therefore it can be hard to get into the better groups.

BNI Starting In Westgate

I personally know how successful BNI can be after belonging to a group for a few years and now I am involved in starting a new group in Westgate which will be a very successful group. The group will officially be starting in April with a pre-launch meeting in March and while a number of people have already reserved their spot (profession) there are plenty of professions not yet represented.

Contact me if you are interested:

Stuart Wills

Mortgage Link (a mortgage broker)

Phone: 09 8392189    Mobile: 021 984340


If you want 2015 to be a better year, try to get involved with a regular networking group.