The Under-Utilised Asset: Networks
So, you’re starting a business, or thinking about starting one, and you’re wondering what things are going to be the key drivers of your success. Is it cash flow that is the absolute top priority for your business? Or should you be pumping thousands into digital marketing to spread your message as far and as fast as possible?
Well, the one thing you’re probably going to overlook, which can be a major driver of your success, are your personal and business networks. You get so caught up in the product, the supply chain and the marketing, that you forget about one of your strongest assets.
Helping Your Business
But how will my network really help my business, you ask? Well, where do we start. Networks can not only help you directly land clients, but they can be an incredible source of referral clients too. On top of that, your networks can be an incredible resource for any partnerships and expert advice that you need. And quite often, the advice you get will be better for you personally without the hefty price tag attached to it. If you ask us, that’s a win-win.
But everyone knows that networking is beneficial business. We’re not here to tell you that.
What we are here to talk about, is how it can be the factor that makes or breaks your business. And seeing as start-ups have a 90% failure rate, you’re going to need all the help you can get.
The thing is, not everyone is going to be as excited about your new product as you are (unless it really is a game changer). Successfully commercialising a product and gaining traction in the market is going to be a challenge. And it’s definitely not going to be easy if your tactic is to throw the product straight out into the market and immediately try to acquire users who don’t know you or the product.
Now that’s where your network comes in. They know you and, most of the time, they’re willing to at least give you the courtesy of testing your product as a new user. So, reach out to them and share your business with them. If they like it, chances are they’ll recommend it to other people. And they’re definitely more likely to become a return customer and recommend the product, than a customer you don’t know.
Quality Vs Quantity Leads
You’ll also find that you get much higher quality client leads through your networks than going out into the market cold. Too often business owners simply want to get as many leads as possible, without any consideration as to how strong those leads are. But soon they learn that quality beats quantity nearly every time.
Sure, any Tom, Dick or Harry can go out and build a big email list, but whether any of those emails actually turn into paying customers is a different story. Yet if you market through your networks, you may not get as many leads, but you’ll almost definitely get leads that are more likely to turn into customers.
The people in your network care about your business, which means that if they like the product, they’ll share it with people that they think will like the product too. And of course, we all value recommendations from friends much more than we value recommendations from strangers.
You may even want to consider giving out free samples of your product to people in your networks. Bonus points if they’re quite influential too. A small revenue sacrifice such as free samples can do wonders for your reputation and customer base in the long-term.
Develop a Referral Program
We get it. Asking for referrals straight up can feel uncomfortable. Of course, you don’t want to feel like you’re nagging them and don’t want to feel like you’re taking advantage of their friendship. But there’s a few things you can do to get around that.
The absolutely essential thing you need to do when asking for a referral, is to use manners. We know, what an obvious suggestion! But we cannot understate the difference it can make for the person you’re asking.
Of course, make sure you’re asking for a referral at the right time. There’s nothing more frustrating than being asked to do a favour for someone while you’re super busy. And it’s even worse when they keep asking time and time again. There’s a fine line between asking nicely for a referral and bugging them repeatedly for one. Pick your timing wisely.
And have a think about what you can offer them in return. They’re doing you a huge favour by referring people to you, so try to give them something in return. Whether that’s a cash prize or giving them one of your products as a thank you gift. Adding that little extra incentive can give them extra reason to refer another customer to you in the future.