There are so many different types of marketing…
Social media marketing, pay-per-click, broadcast media, prints, etc. The list goes on and on.
In a recent Lawgitimate Podcast episode, we discussed network marketing, and how to be successful at it with our guest, Tisha Marie Pelletier with Tisha Marie Enterprises. You can find her online at tishamarieenterprises.com. Here are some takeaways from Rochelle Poulton, Mike Poulton and Tisha Marie Pelletier…
When you’re starting in business, you’ve got time and you don’t have a lot of money. Having the time to network and build relationships with people is really, really key in building your business. Tisha says that networking really is for everybody, but there are definitely some right ways and wrong ways to do it as well.
Who Should Network?
The broadest category is obviously professionals, so people who are attorneys or dentists, things with professional credentialing, mostly because that is you get to know what is going on in your industry and who is in it. But, when you join a networking group, sometimes you don’t see a lot of those professional categories being filled. It’s very rare to walk into a networking group and find an attorney. They just tend to not network, and sometimes not even with other attorneys.
There are a lot of professionals who could benefit greatly from networking, and just do not do it because they’re in a job where the business comes to them. They feel like they do not need to have a lot of connections. That may be true for what they are doing at the time, but when the time comes for them the shift in their careers, or try to advance, or move on to something else. Or if it turns out that business was not going that well for their employer, they may really need to rely on a network. It pays to put that time in and build your connections, even if you don’t feel like you have to do it right now.
The other category is independent contractors, 1099-Cs, self-employed, small business owners. They are just constantly needing to bring in new business. If you’re not growing, then you’re not making it. Building relationships is key in networking. Otherwise, you have a hobby. They tend to forget that that’s how they get business. We see it frequently I think with landscapers and pool cleaners that have their own small businesses, that you’ve got to network to continuously get business, even when you’re busy. When you’re busy, that’s great, but if you’re not still marketing, you’re not going to stay busy.
On LinkedIn, there was a gentleman that said something so profound that everybody should know. He said, “Visibility is your currency. Visibility is your currency,” especially right now. If you’re not visible, and we can’t find you and we don’t see you, then how is that helping your business?”
What Not To Do
But, if you were in it with this, “I have to reach my quota. I have to get that dollar,” people smell that miles and miles away. It’s referred to as ‘commission breath’. Among the things not to do, selling your business directly to your networking contacts, especially when you first meet them. It really defeats the purpose of networking. Networking is not supposed to be a sales meeting.
The concept is relationship building and reputation establishment. It’s a much more abstracted, long-term conceptual process, rather than a direct sales approach. People who come into a networking organization, or who use their contacts and just try to push a product on them or service immediately, it gets doors closed in your face real fast. It can sour relationships, even if they’ve started off well if you try to do a hard sell to somebody who you’re in a networking relationship with. Usually, that’s going to go poorly.
Why Networking Is Different
Networking is very different than a lot of other approaches to marketing. You look at like a pay-per-click ad campaign on the internet, that may take a couple weeks to a month or so to start getting real solid results. In some industries, it could just be a matter of literally hours to days before you’ve got the leads you want out of that. That’s not how networking works.
With an ad campaign, when your docket is full in the case of a law firm, or when your crews are busy in a construction company, whatever it you do when you’ve got enough work out of it, you can just turn that off. Then you want to do it again, you can just turn it back on. That’s really handy, and that’s a good tool to have, but that is not how networking works. You cannot transplant that ideology into a network approach to business growth.
If you get busy from networking, and you decide to cut off your networking because you’re too busy, whoo. You’ve made another year or more worth of work for yourself to catch back up to where you were when you decided to turn it back on again. You’ve just got to keep those relationships up, even if you can’t handle the work. In fact, one of the best things you can do in network marketing is turn down work because you’re too busy. It builds your credit and reputation tremendously. That’s very helpful. Then when you do have slots, you’ll start getting that work come in from those contacts.
Types of Networking Groups
First up, professional organizations are the first big chunk of networking. Like for attorneys, there’s the Bar Association, and a billion different committees you can join.
Of course there’s hundreds of these groups, and they’re all aimed at attorneys getting to know other attorneys, the logical people that it’s helpful to have a network. Other professionals have the same kind of thing. CPAs do it, financial advisors have it, everybody has their own types of professional organizations, and people should join them. But people who aren’t part of the industry, should also join them. Financial advisors joining the estate planning bar, and the personal injury bar would be great. You can do that as non-attorneys.
Another is the general networking organizations. Those are your exclusive versus non-exclusive groups, like BNI would be an exclusive group. It’s one category per industry, so you can only have one realtor per group. The non-exclusives like The Tempe Chamber of Commerce, or any chamber of commerce, are groups that allow multiple categories of people.
Then you have hybrid groups, like Social Connect Phoenix, which is a quarterly event. Tisha wanted to create an event where it wasn’t just connections, but there was an inspirational part to it. Because she works with a lot of entrepreneurs, she found that we want to be surrounded by peers who have been there, done that, and can keep us moving forward. It’s very empowering to be in a room full of movers and shakers sharing some dang good positive vibes and their stories. Social Connect Phoenix is all about education, connections and inspiration. It’s an event. It’s an experience focused on making one or two really great connections, and take something of value away from this event.
What You Need To Know
In networking, people expect a lot more these days, and it’s just so much more work. It is about working with other people’s psychology and personalities, and their wants and needs, and their business situations. The most important thing is to know who they are as a person, not as a business and as a title. People do business with people they like. People do business with their friends.
For successful networking, the most important thing you can do is do a one-to-one. A lot of people never bother to schedule a meeting with anybody in a networking group. It’s like, well how you do know who people are? You may see each other all the time, but until you’ve had like a 30-minute conversation, you haven’t quite gotten past the, “How was your weekend?”
Networking relationships are merely initiated at the meeting, and the real work gets done elsewhere. Anybody who’s doing real business with somebody in a relationship kind of networking approach, they’re meeting outside of a formal setting.
It’s the follow-through, which a lot of people don’t do. At the same time, why go to a networking event if you’re not going to take the steps after, post-production, to follow through with people and meet them? That’s the biggest challenge, and that’s why people don’t see their businesses building. They’re running around doing all this networking, with no result, because they’re not willing to put in the extra time.
You can do something like Zoom. You don’t have to travel all around the country and the world to have coffee with so. You can easily just do a 30-minute call. They’ll respect that too because it’s their time as well.
Keep Showing Up
I also think the other thing that’s really important is attendance. You’ve got to keep going to the groups that you sign up for. If you forget to go, then no one remembers you.
There’s got to be a level of consistency. People build trust with people because you’re consistent. If they keep seeing you, and they keep seeing your message, and they keep seeing it, that’s how the relationship starts to form.
Yeah. I think it gets back to the point that networking is about working with other people’s psychology. It isn’t so much about the format. It’s not where you meet them, what you’re doing, how your meeting is structured. What matters is how you manage that interpersonal relationship, so that you make another person feel good about who you are and what you do. That’s the point.
Always remember that there are a lot of people that are watching your stuff, but they’re maybe not taking the time to comment or like it. If they keep seeing you, eventually they’re going to reach out to you. It is because you keep showing up, whether it be at the networking event or online.
The other part about, if you’ve been in a networking group for longer than three of four months, and you haven’t gotten any referrals, you’ve got to ask, have you given any referrals? You’ve got to remember that this is a give and take relationship. Sometimes, referrals are a one-way street. If you give a referral to your real estate agent, they may never ever be able to give you a referral, simply because there’s no good opportunity for that. Now obviously if you’re in construction, or home design or something, you guys are going to have a great relationship.
There are plenty of ways to pass business to people in a lot of different fields. It doesn’t necessarily have to be part of your main line of work, and frequently it is not. In the networking groups that I’ve been involved in, frequently I’ve been unable to give someone a direct referral because I don’t need it. Or for one reason or another, I can’t make that referral to a client. But I might know somebody who might need some of their services completely outside of my business, or somebody else is asking for another friend. It ends up being a third or fourth party referral. Either way, you’re trying to give business to them, and that’s what counts.
The book, The Go-Giver is a great read about referrals. It really talks about being your authentic self and giving to others. When we talk about networking, it’s not about reaching the quota. It’s about putting people first. It’s not about selling to them. That’s the biggest thing. You want them to be your advocate. You want to be top of mind when they hear someone who needs something that you do. The only way you’re going to be top of mind is if they know who you are and what you do. Usually, the people that get referred to the most are the people that I see all the time.
When you help somebody else, they’ll come back to help you, or support you in whatever you’re doing.
Who Should Be Networking For Your Business?
The answer I think we all agree is, you, the business owner. You are the only person who can effectively network for your company. It isn’t your business’s network, it’s you, personally. You need your own networking. if you’re going to take the time to build a business, you have to be the business. You have to be the face of the business.
You can hire somebody, but honestly if you’re not willing to pay like six figures, you need to do it yourself. If you don’t have a hundred grand you can pay someone to do sales for you, you’re looking at doing it yourself.
The bottom line with that is, the people who have the skillset that is required to do this type of networking, and to just cold open one-on-one with established business owners and professionals, those are people who have a refined skillset that is worth a lot of money. They’re capable of making a lot of money doing a lot of different things. So you have to give them a lot of money to do it for you. And to be effective at it.
The hard part as a small business owner or startup, you can’t afford that. It doesn’t make sense to pay someone enough money to get the quality of network business development that is required. If you do, it is their network. Even if you do have the sales staff to do network marketing, it is not a substitute for doing your own networking.
When somebody hires someone who ends up becoming the visible face of their small company, that is a perilous situation for both the business owner and that employee. An attorney and business consultant, my likely recommendation for somebody in that situation would be an equity deal. That person needs to have some ownership. That should have been established before, but their primary compensation should be in distributions. It should be equity.
It may be painful to give up some of your company, but it’s the only way that someone in that kind of position can be appropriately incentivized and captured by your organization. It doesn’t mean it’s the best approach, but if you’re going to go that route, it probably needs to be an equity arrangement.
If you’re building that business, and that person, they’re working on your behalf for that organization. You have the same goals. You have the same vision and mission, hopefully. Don’t look at that person as a threat. Think of them as a positive to your organization. An ally. Their goals are aligned. They can’t be looking to build their network on your time, so they can jump ship later.
Why Network As A Business Owner?
That should be one of those rules, like when people say, “What does it take to be a business owner?” I’m like, “Well, you’re going to have to get out and network. You’re going to have to start meeting people. You have to invest your time.” It’s 24/7. “It’s planting, nurturing and harvesting.” So many people miss that nurture stage. That’s where the money is and where your growth comes in. That’s where exponential growth happens.
The most valuable thing that I have gained, aside from personal friendship, has been knowledge and understanding of how other people’s businesses work. What it’s like to be in their profession, what it’s like to be in their line of work. What works, what doesn’t. Seeing people whose businesses fail, watching them fail, it’s painful. That’s part of networking, and part of being with entrepreneurs. You will see 95% of businesses fail around you.
That has been an invaluable experience to watch it happen in real-time. Even though it’s in some ways terrifying to watch somebody go down like that, the best learning experience you can get as a small business owner. You only get it if you’re hanging out with other people in the same boat. They’re not judging you. They understand you, and they’re there to help you.
ROI, the return on your investment.
Phoenix is an awesome place to network. There’s so many groups, every day of the week, every hour of the day, morning, noon and night. You’ve got to calculate whether or not it’s worth it.
Yes, relationships are important, but you can’t afford to go to coffee every week with your friends if you’re not getting anything out of it. You have to calculate your time. Your time has an actual cost associated with it. You can’t value it at zero. You have to in the beginning, but eventually it does matter.
You have to stop and think, if you’re networking all the time, wait. Is this actually, is this group worth it? Am I actually getting something out of it? You have to take into account the benefits that aren’t monetary as well.
Maybe it’s good for your reputation or good marketing. You may not get actual referrals from it, but it benefits you in some other way. Sometimes, it’s just a simple, “I’ve never gotten a referral. I have no one in this group I can refer to. Maybe this isn’t a good fit.” It’s okay to do that analysis. Sometimes you have to.
It’s always going to be somewhat nebulous, that this is actually working. That’s fine, if you need to prove to yourself in dollars and cents that it’s working. The reality is that in more advanced and better approaches to networking, you’re not going to be able to calculate an exact number. You’re going to have to be loose about it. But you do need to do the analysis on an activity by activity basis to determine whether it really seems to be worth your time.
You can’t forget to incorporate into that all of those long-term nebulous future benefits that we’ve been discussing throughout this of who you know for how long. Who you’ve done favors for over the course of your career. Whether or not a single janitorial services person or handyman might end up getting you a multimillion-dollar deal. You never know, and you’ve got to think about all those things. But that doesn’t mean you should keep pouring your time into things that are very time consuming and burdensome if you’re not getting some kind of result.