Part of ANY successful business strategy HAS to include networking. This is especially true of small business and even more specifically-the mom & pop or one man operations. Having said this, I can’t tell you how many ‘rolled eyed looks, yawns or complete mental shut downs’ I’ve seen from the “entrepreneurs” I’ve talked to when this subject is brought up. I guess what throws most is that the word is Net WORKING and for most of us, we’ve got enough of that already.
But what you may not realize–up to a certain point–I agree with them. Being a small business owner is no small task and TIME is not something you can make more of to get it all done. The thought of running down leads all day, crawling all over houses and businesses in some of the worst grunge known to man- only to then woof down dinner, kiss the wife and kids good night and then go to a networking meeting till late in the evening is not a inviting thought. And if that’s not enough, most guru’s and “growth” books tell you to belong to 2, 3 or more such groups. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time for even one of these let alone more. There has got to be an easier way!
No one needs or should I say wants more work, it is however imperative that you network, and if one or more groups can fit in for your schedule then by all means do it- it can be very profitable. If, on the other hand you are like me. Have almost zero extra (free) time and not a fan of meetings anyway, there is still a way in which you can effectively network. In fact, even if you belong to a number of networking groups, you can easily add this to your business plan with very little time or effort added to your already busy day.
Networking On The Fly
In a nutshell, this way of networking simply involves the people and the places you are already at or will be visiting that day or near future. It is very fruitful and this is how I do it.
#1 Networking is SHARING! You can’t expect to get referrals if you’re not giving them. In our little company we schedule about a week ahead so I simply look at my schedule and see if somewhere I can give out a referral or “lead” (I hate that word) or something other that spurs goodwill to a customer on my itinerary.
#2 For commercial accounts I always try and make that referral a current client of mine. For instance, we service a body shop and one of my clients is a claims adjuster for an insurance company. (I just found this out cause the Husbands never home when I service) So- having both cards in a book I always keep in my truck-I simply gave the auto shops card to my adjuster and then the adjusters to the shop owner. For both I could (and do) vouch for as being reputable and I told each of them this about the other. How much business have they passed back and forth? Not sure, but they both were happy to get the info and just how much easier was it for me to ask for a referral????? Let’s just say I picked up a new client from the shop owner who was fixing a bumper for a client and she commented on the amount of bugs on her grill. Would he have thought of me if I just zipped in and out of his shop cause I was in such a hurry? (networking meeting that night 🙂 Maybe, but I think you know the answer just like I do.
#3 Maybe my client doesn’t own a business so how can I network with him/her. Although not as easy, it can still be done with a little creative thinking. I do my best to find out birthdays, anniversaries, where they work/worked (I live in the retiree capitol of the world). Then, as a special occasion comes near we simply give a birthday or what have you card. Or, say I see an article in the paper or on line which involves something of interest to them, (where they worked, hobby or other) I hit print and have it when I service their home or drop it by when in the neighborhood if it’s somehow time sensitive. Did this with a flyer for a car show which quite a few of my clients LOVE! Guess what, my customer went because of my alerting him (networking) and ran into a neighbor at the show- Guess who is now servicing the neighbor???? Also, I have a few retired bug business owners/techs on our routes and I make sure they get my old PCT or other pest control magazines. They love reading about the bug world and can you imagine what a strong referral that is?
“Hey I owned a company in New Jersey & I ONLY want The Bug Doctor in my home!!!!”
(I get quite a few clients from this guy who owned a company for 30 years. Now all he does is golf all day–and refer me)
#4 Although the title is Networking on the fly, this type of networking takes a little forethought and planning. The “fly” part is that I seldom go out of my way to accomplish any of this. By simply looking ahead I can see what’s coming up and for whom. Then I can also plot when I’ll be close enough to deliver if the ‘receiver’s’ not due for service & the occasion will then be past. People just eat it up when you take a little extra time out and bring them something special or that they can use. (benefit from) From here I’m sure you can see just how much easier it is to ask for a referral. Shoot, you don’t even have to ask when it’s this type of caring and goodwill you are sharing. I guarantee that you’ll be on the lips of your clients as they are out and about and the subject of pest control comes up.
And Why Not?
This type of networking is hardly ‘work’ at all, more over it shows that you care, that you’re thinking beyond just a customer’s number and signed check. In fact, instead of thinking of this as networking- I encourage you to start thinking about – net ‘sharing.’ Now you may think this way is a little backwards and hey that’s ok…try this and I’m sure you’ll hit your target more than not. After all…“Did you know that houseflies take off backwards? If you want to swat one, aim slightly behind it.”