How many times have we started a new business endeavor and start hitting as many networking events as possible? For which, I have been guilty of that a time or two in my career. We often have a tendency of forgetting about our own backyard. As business owners, have we taken the time to go around to our new neighbors and introduce ourselves or our team? Why not? I am sure time is probably the first answer people give. So they go out and purchase 1000 flyers to send out to the surrounding zip codes to announce their arrival. Direct marketing is a good thing and I really do not see the end to that but there is nothing like good ole fashion networking and hospitality to make a lasting impression.
Let’s use a new Hair Salon as an example of covering your backyard. Not only is the business owner trying to develop a new team, they are developing a new marketing campaign, new customers, establishing a mission statement, business plan and a vision. Just to name a few!
We all know that laying a good foundation with team building is the start of something big. Why not spend the day going out to neighboring businesses in a scavenger hunt setting, getting clues, performing tasks and doing things that allow you to spend a few minutes in several businesses in your neighborhood. Here is the prize…… take a few dollars out of your budget to get school supplies and a backpack for a child in your neighborhood school. Not only has your team learned about the businesses in the neighborhood they have also just given back to the community.
When you really look at the Art of Networking, it is about “how can I help you”? not “what’s in it for me”. When customers come into the salon and start sharing their problems, there may be someone in your neighborhood who can help. Now you are a hero to your customer, you have made a great connection and they are going to look at what you have done as great “customer service”.
Networking is not necessarily “in your face” sales. It is about building relationships, connecting people, helping others grow their business while creating strategic partnerships to grow yours.
I once took a Realty group on an adventure doing the same thing. They went to businesses, performed tasks, got new clues and collecting items off the wish list of a couple of students (brother and sister) in need. This particular team ran through the course as though it really was the Amazing Race, not really thinking about the wonderful places they were visiting. When they completed the course and went to the school with backpacks, the children came to the counselors office to meet them. A 5th grade little boy gave that team more character than any stop I could have added. He asked simply, “what about my other sister”? The team,momentarily speechless, asked the counselor for the 1st graders list of school supplies and told the children that they would be right back.
The team went to a local pharmacy chain store and asked for the manager. They shared with the manager what had happened and convinced him to go to the back and look for a princess backpack. Together, they all including the manager proceeded to find a Princess backpack and all the school supplies on the list. Back to the school they went and now as all three children arrived at the counselors office, they dug into their new backpacks with great excitement.
Do you think this team experienced “The Art of Networking”? They definitely have a good start. Do not forget the follow up to keep the relationships going, continue to build your network, ask “how can I help you?” and make sure your backyard is covered!
Stephanie Ringer is a 2010 EPIC Award Finalist for Woman Business Owner of the Year, selected by NAWBO Louisville. She is retired from the Criminal Justice Arena in June of 2001. While working with the Indiana Department of Correction, she taught team development to the Emergency Preparedness Units for many years. She joined Aflac in June 2001 and then became a District Sales Coordinator in January 2002. Stephanie was asked in 2005 to be a Regional Sales Coordinator for Aflac in the Louisville Metro market. Stephanie developed her District team into the number one Regional Aflac Team in Kentucky West for 2 years running in 2006 and 2007. Her dedication to team, networking and training is what separated heroffice from the other Aflac Regions. She believes in the team concept and how it enriches people’s lives. She achieved the Founder’s Award for Mangement Excellence 11 times while with Aflac.
In 2007, she became a co-owner of WorkShop, the creative workplace http://www.creativeworkplace.com/ In her role as WorkShop’s “Operation’s Manager”, Stephanie is the creative force behind WorkShop’s vision. She is an inspiring speaker who loves to share “The Art of Networking” and “It’s all about Team” with groups and organizations. Stephanie loves to motivate others to be the best they can be, drive business to people to help them succeed, show our out of town guests what Louisville has to offer and find ways to enhance the lives of children and the elderly.
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