The Guest Blogger this week is JD Moore. JD is a small business marketing coach, consultant and all around marketing guru. He is the founder of Marketing Comet and he writes one of the best marketing blogs that I read regularly.
Vertical Networking – Networking Without Tears
By JD Moore
I'll admit it – I don’t really like to network. At least I don't like the way it usually happens. I do understand how important networking can be for small businesses.
This is how things usually work: I go to a Chamber of Commerce networking group and everybody I meet there tries to sell me whatever they do. There will be a bunch of CPAs and insurance agents there, and some various services. Or, I go to a leads group and there is one plumber, one mechanic, and one web designer there.
My theory on networking is that I don't network to meet customers. I network to make business connections that may become part of a vast referral network. I need to be hanging out with people who are successful, do something in a space similar to what I do, and who aren’t trying to pitch me.
A great solution is vertical networking. Vertical networking is a concept developed by Stephen Melanson and Peter Cross who founded the Overlap Group, http://www.overlapgroup.com. Overlap is a group where both providers and consumers of marketing and strategy-related services network.
Overlap meetings are the most stress-free networking events I have ever attended. People gather, set a stack of their business cards out on a table and talk casually. Then the Overlappers gather in a circle and go around introducing themselves and what they do in 10 seconds. Then people are free to meet those whose introduction held some interest.
The rules are pretty simple, members do not try to sell to each other, and they aren’t allowed to bring marketing materials other than business cards. Of course, if I needed to hire a web or graphic person I would probably go to one of my Overlap contacts.
The basic idea is that people who offer similar services are far more likely to be able to refer business to each other. I always thought a great fusion-networking arrangement would be a contractor, landscaper, and interior designer group.
Of course you are always thinking of ways to serve your customers right? Naturally being a source that they go to for referrals will make you even more valuable to your customers. I have an amazing attorney, CPA, dentist, and chiropractor and I refer clients and non-clients to them all the time. My attorney has been one of my greatest sources of referrals.
To reap the rewards of vertical networking you must get past seeing like businesses as competition. If I own a wine shop and the store next door has a fine beer selection, think of the cooperative marketing and referral opportunities we could generate. In general, the best place to open a restaurant is in an area with a lot of other restaurants. This is why shopping malls exist – together the stores can do better business than separately.
Of course your networking goal is to build a network. Think about becoming a hub for a vertical market. Let’s say that you own a housecleaning service. In your network you also have interior decorators, a carpet installation business, a landscaper, a company that installs hot tubs, and 12 other home service businesses. How quickly can you build your reputation as the go-to person for home service? What effect could that have on your bottom line?
Please continue to network. But the next time you go to a networking meeting don’t try to sell anybody anything. When you meet somebody, think about who you could introduce them to that would make for a mutually beneficial relationship. Creating these links will build a network of support that will serve your business forever.
J D Moore founded Marketing Comet when he realized that most small business owners were frustrated by marketing that just plain stunk. Marketing Comet is coaching that gives small business owners more customers, more profits, and a lot more enjoyment from their business. J D’s bold, in-your-face, and often quirky writing can be found at his regular Marketing Comet blog. He has been referred to as the short, blue-eyed devil of marketing for his impish and effective guerilla marketing style. His drive comes partly from his decades of martial arts training and partly from over a decade working with small businesses. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all owned small-businesses – it's in his blood.
Thank you JD for a GREAT "Guest Blogger Friday".
Have A Great Day.