Every day it seems more and more business activities are migrating in some way to the Internet. Even networking is getting a 21st-century make-over in the form of business networking websites.
But, just like the rest of the Internet such as participating in forums or groups, there is a certain net-iquette that needs following. Luckily, this is simple to learn and follows the same kind of etiquette followed in real life. It involves little more than basic manners and treating others with a little respect.
The problem is people seem to forget these rules when marketing online. The reason for this is undoubtedly that the Internet has a lot of myths surrounding its marketing power and the real amount of effort needed to harness it. And, there is also a lot of false and out-dated information floating around about online marketing in general.
But, if done correctly, networking websites can rapidly expand your contacts and increase your opportunities to do business.
To help you avoid the pitfalls many people make when using business networking sites we’ve made a list of the top 8 mistakes you should avoid.
Common Mistakes Many Businesses Make:
1: Trying To Sell To Every Member
Often seen as the worst faux-pas of the real networking world is the business owner that tries to sell to everyone in the room. And, rightly so. It’s irritating to meet someone for the first time, have them quickly reel-off their name, what they do and then start pitching you.
So, if this annoys people in the real-world it’s going to annoy people online. Relationships you build are valuable because they take a little effort to nurture.
Generally, asking another business outright if they need your services is inviting one of two responses: yes or no. And, 99% of the time it will be a firm ‘no’.
Your first message to a new contact you make online should be asking if you can meet up/arrange a call for a one-2-one to get to know their business to find out if there is any way you can work together. This can create some amazing business opportunities and opens the doors to creating real, worth-while business relationships.
2: Not Building a The Right Kind Of Network
It’s tempting to network only with the business you could sell too. But a more lucrative approach is to network with the companies you could work with.
Try building a network that could refer business to you or that you could complete work for. This kind of group is great at generating business.
For example, builders could network with plumbers or joiners. And, web developers could network with printers and graphic designers. You’re limited only by your creativity and readiness to put in a little leg work. Luckily business networking sites make it easier then ever to reach out and connect with other companies.
3: Never Meeting Or Getting To Know Their Network
The old saying goes that ‘people do business with people’ is very true, even online.
You’ll be much more likely to receive referrals and work from other companies if they know the people behind the brand.
It’s all about trust.
It’s risky to refer your clients to a company you know nothing about. So take the time to get to know your network. Once you’re no longer a stranger its surprising just how many recommendations and referrals you can receive from your business network.
Which brings us on to our next point…
4: Not Completing Their Profile
A blank profile is very unappealing. It gives a potential client or contact nothing to go on about your business. The lack of information breeds a lack of trust.
When we designed our network, ehuhb, we designed our member profiles to show key business information. We have even included a Staff Profile section so people can see the real people behind a business. It stops companies just being seen as nameless and faceless and increases trust. Taking a few minutes to fill in your profile increases your online credibility.
5: Never Handing Out Referrals
Another networking faux-pas, that annoys many a member in networking groups is the business that takes referrals/leads but never hands out anything in return.
It sounds very cliché but you need to give to get. Joining a business networking site and sitting back expecting to receive referrals is inviting disappointment. Because if every business took that view networking as a whole just wouldn’t work.
Break the ice, send a referral to a member you know and trust in your network. They’ll then feel obliged to send you referrals in return. These small actions can snowball.
6: Never Logging In
There is a common myth online that by placing your company name on a website or directory is enough to cause a stampede of visitors to your website – with no extra effort on your part.
Sadly, this is not the case. The build-it-and-they-will-come mentality just doesn’t work online anymore, except in incredibly rare fringe cases.
That’s why if you’re part of an online community you need to log in and interact with this community to make sure your business is seen and heard. You don’t need to login every 5 minutes but a couple of times a week to check on updates, post some news or find new contacts is highly recommended.
In short: you won’t get anything out of a site you put nothing in to.
7: Posting Only Promotions
It’s boring to read posts that are only promotions and it does nothing to increase trust or credibility. Carefully sharing posts that demonstrate your expertise and knowledge is a great way subtly getting other businesses to trust your company.
Try sharing links to informative blog posts or portfolio work where you’ve creatively helped solved a problem for a client. Or just if you’ve done something great with your staff.
These kind of posts are much more engaging which means people are more likely to remember your business.
8: Giving Up Too Soon
We live in an age where we’re busier than we’ve ever been. Don’t be surprised if you don’t always get a prompt reply or if another business owner rejects your offer to meetup. You never know if you caught that person at a bad time or if your message might have not been right for that business owner. You need to be persistant.
Sent the same cookie-cutter message to 10 businesses and received no reply? Have you reeled off your name, business and what you do and been surprised that no-one business owner has gotten back to you? Then maybe you need to tweak your message and approach.
The biggest mistake we’ve seen when businesses message each other online is that people always talk about themselves and their business. Try being genuinly interested in the other business. Ask what they do, find out if there’s any overlap, and if you could work together. A slight shift in perspective can dramatically improve your results and opportunities.
Also don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Respectfully ask why a business owner might not want to meet or network. Sometimes this simple approach gives you a second chance and could lead to the beginning of a relationship or give you insight you can use to improve your outreach in the future.
To Sum Up
I hope we’ve abolished some misconceptions about business networking sites and marketing online as a whole.
Marketing online is not as glamorous as often portrayed in movies or TV shows. But it does work and, if done correctly, it can work very well. Business networking sites are a very cost-effective way for companies to take advantage of the communication and marketing power of the Internet withut requiring lots of tech know-how.
Now that you’re armed with the right knowledge to make the most of the networking online its time to get out there and put it in action! And, if you not already a member of an online business community you can join one here.