What does networking mean?
It’s marketing of a sort. The newest form of niche marketing in fact, it has been made more powerful by the introduction of social media, being able to connect with friends of friends and connect with your target audience more readily. If you know where your prospects are, then you can connect and start conversations and keep them going.
Networking is one of the ways of generating new business, but it’s different to the traditional sales and marketing model of developing Attraction, Interest, Desire, Action (AIDA is the Marketing Acronym we all know and love). Often we’re not selling to our network, we want to work with them and add value.
Networking is a different Audience
When networking I could be doing business by referring, partnering, or working with freelancers in the same industry. Or, I might not be looking to do business at all, I could just be sharing and helping or going for serendipity, those ripples in the pond that are hard to measure.
I’m experimenting having this Networking Website, for the following reasons.
This is where we can Talk Shop
For example, whilst networking with design agencies, I might be discussing how the nature of website search traffic and website structure affects how we lay out the page for greatest effect. Or perhaps we discuss the merits of various plugins in WordPress – we short-cut the conversation as we both know what we’re talking about.
Exploring ideas and business development in a network is a different conversation, and possibly a conversation that could distract visitors to our main business website.
Niche Marketing or within an industry
If you are ‘always’ selling within an industry, a niche, then that is the ultimate networking. Your network is your business, you are part of the industry and you may not need another website. There is value in talking shop on your main site, life is easy, your blogs and conversations are free samples.
But if your business appeals to a different audiences, more horizontal than vertical, and you need your company to sell to people outside of your own industry, you might think about having a separate networking website.
Being a Person vs being a Company
Do we need a different website for Business Networking?
Company websites promote products and services, so maybe we do.
I myself want to communicate, to keep in touch, but sense that the company website isn’t always the right place. Maybe other people feel the same way. So the idea with this ‘Networking Website’ is of a place I can talk with Colleagues, Referral Partners, Channel Partners and Friends throughout a career.
Keep the company website clear
Quite often, the people we network with can be in the same industry, we may even compete on some simple levels, but work together on more complex projects. People in Networking groups will recognise this aspect, where one ‘marketer’ will be worried that another ‘marketer’ is competition. Often they’re not.
But a separate place to Network will remove all those concerns. We can publish with our friendly competitors, we can meander onto important subjects that interests us without contemplating deadly distraction for new visitors. Distraction loses the sale on company websites.
Why not just use Social Platforms?
Whilst networking is inherently social (and mobile), there is the fact that not everyone is on the same Social Network, and even if they are, we’re not connected on all of them, it’s not like all your circles will mix well. Or you might not want them to. Google Plus will handle this, but it’s not ready for everything.
More importantly, Social Networks are like rivers, where the conversations flow quickly, the water is different each time you hang your line out. And then it’s gone. If what you say could be useful in the future, you might want it to live somewhere, be persistent.
A Networking website is the difference between having somewhere to live and snacking in a cafe.
With a professional networking site, you get to have somewhere to put your stuff. Other people may have somewhere to link to. Its no fun when you turn up to your local cafe and it’s gone, as most social platforms will likely do in the end.
What are you saying?
On a networking website
- I am free to say things I might not want to say on a business website. Sometimes the things I say might need to be long form, unsuitable for social networks, like this piece.
- I can build and sustain and relationships in my own way. People engage and link more readily with non commercially motivated websites.
- We can benefit from having a networking website when it comes time to move on, or sell the business, or just do different business.
A professional networking website is to look after my professional interests
What do we need?
- A domain – I thought that if this site is to build relationships, then it might well be in your own name, or something that is closely associated with your identity.
- Your own WordPress website – the most flexible, lowest cost of ownership
- Mobile Device Support – Networking is ‘Social’, and Social is predominantly mobile
- A blog – the best way to keep people up to date, including yourself, is to blog.
The site is a template, and takes very little time to create. So if anyone were interested in trying the concept then I’d be happy to help by throwing a quick site up for them (of the same ilk) if we can share the experience.
Here’s part of the thinking behind trying it out. The different methods of business generation that I contemplate.