When I wrote the blog about, what I coined "Marketing Cowboys" a little while back, a few people said they had found my views useful and that I should write more about the subject of marketing etiquette within the small business world. So, I thought I would touch on the subject of networking.
As you can imagine there are lots of things that are refreshingly different working on a small biz compared to a larger company. Budgets are often tight and customers expect to get more of that personal touch but I actually enjoy the challenge of having to think differently about my approach. There's also a lot of crossover, and any good marketer knows that the collaborative relationships you build are worth their weight in gold whatever the size of your business. There is no better marketing asset than word of mouth, endorsement and recommendations.
As a result I have spent the last 18 months building up my followers, talking to my customers and being an avid supporter of other small businesses, networking with them and sharing wares and products consistently. The result is that I now have a strong network of both followers and like minded businesses, meaning that often I'm seen as an asset to others. This is something I'm incredibly proud of and have worked hard to achieve.
But along with this sense of achievement comes some frustration. I'm sure you've experienced it... the small business owners that seem to think you own them something and fail to understand the definition of networking is working together now "using". why do so many people think that it is ok to ask favours of complete strangers just because we're online? They wouldn't walk into a shop and ask for a discount, or into a room full of people and ask you to do a spontaneous sales pitch, so why should we do it over twitter? The trap that many fall into is going head first and asking for that favour way too early. They simply forget their manners, and that the golden rule of influence is being reciprocal.
Now don't get me wrong, if you ask me to support or share then you'll usually find that I do
it (if you've asked politely at least - there are some very rude people around!). And I'll also always offer advice if I'm asked for it because I appreciate how hard it can be to build a business let alone learning new skills. It's when people ask over and over again, and offer nothing in return - not a RT or share in sight - that's when I lose interest. Likewise, so many bloggers (and sometimes even other businesses) ask for freebies and discounts, but sometimes I'm left wondering what's actually in it for me? A good blog will be able to provide me with stats and figures on the post's reach, and work hard to promote it. If that's the case then that's great, it's reciprocal, but I'd never dream of asking people to provide me with free goods unless I knew I could do it justice. At the end of the day we all have businesses to run.
In conclusion, the most profitable relationships I have built have been where I've initially done more for them, than they do me. So, for long term networking success my advice would be make yourself the giver. Share and RT others who you perceive will benefit your business, and ask for nothing in return. You will soon see that if they are a worthwhile business associate that they'll reciprocate and once you have established a partnership based on mutual benefit, it won't be so cheeky to ask that favour should you need it. Afterall, networking is about getting what you want, but it's crucial to ensure that those you deem important to your success are also getting what they need too.