In the fast-moving world of digital marketing, our means of networking are changing all the time, with many of us having online networks with which to share pictures, emotions, key occasions and thoughts. But where does this leave traditional face-to-face networking, and is there still a role for it for the franchisee?
The answer is most definitely ‘yes’. People still buy from people and it’s not always possible to entice target customers into your social media networks, where they may fear being ‘sold to’. Whilst engaging content within your posts may attract attention, you probably still won’t be able to convey your personality, or trustworthiness, or all the key things you could potentially put across about your franchise business during a face-to-face conversation.
Additionally, an online network such as your LinkedIn connections may only grow slowly, whereas you could attend a networking meeting and meet maybe 40 new people at once, putting your business card directly in their hand and, in return, taking home theirs.
You may also meet potential customers who are not inclined to use social media, or of an age where they still prefer to network face-to-face. You could meet people who could be very useful contacts, or referrers, but not necessarily the possible customers your digital posts might attract.
So, having established that it’s definitely worth it, how is it best to go about it? One thing the digital world tells us is that personalisation is key, but when you meet someone in person, should you tailor your sales pitch to them? Is that the right thing to do?
The answer to this is probably that there isn’t an answer. Knowing something about a person’s business, or lifestyle, before you meet them is definitely a great idea, as it can be an ice-breaker. However, networking in person is all about being genuine and authentic and making other people feel at ease when talking to you. Networking is also an exploratory exercise where it’s important to find out about the person you are networking with in order to understand how you can help them, and in return they may help you. This is absolutely essential in the world of property insurance claims management. Coming across as too keen may be disadvantageous and not allow you to project yourself as a useful contact, an authority, or the go-to person when a property claim has to be made.
Additionally, making errors whilst tailoring your approach too much could backfire, leaving you to appear to be less competent than you actually are. The best way is probably to express some knowledge of your contacts business or industry, if you have any, but most importantly to be a good listener, picking up on any points with which you could help your fellow networker, whether that is of direct benefit to you, or merely a case of being helpful to them. Give generously during your networking encounters and, sooner or later, you may well be rewarded for your efforts and patience, by business being referred to you.
Remember that half of all communication is non-verbal, so make sure you convey interest in other networkers and also judge their facial reactions and body language whilst you are talking. This could help you shape how you express yourself and market your franchise business.
Although it may be nerve-racking to approach new people at first, the more you do it, the more your confidence will grow and this can be one huge benefit of networking. It may also open up opportunities to give a talk or seminar, which could be extremely valuable. You will become more credible the more you do it, as you will almost unknowingly adapt how you approach conversations and become better at getting your message across. Don’t give up on networking after just a few attempts, as it can be a learning curve.
Additionally, successful networking is all about chance encounters that produce valuable business and, to get those, you need to play a numbers game, getting out and meeting as many new contacts as possible, as you grow your franchise.
Never believe someone is not worth talking to, just because their name badge doesn’t shout ‘sale’. You never know who that person may know and which doors they could open. Also remember that networking is actually giving you multi-person mentoring opportunities and creating conversations that can spark ideas or make you aware of new sales channels. It also gets you out of the franchise office, or your home, so that you’re not living a lonely existence that’s cocooning you from what’s going on in the real world.
Approach networking with an open mind, be willing to talk to anyone and everyone and be prepared to share your knowledge. Above all, don’t forget to follow up with new contacts the minute you get back to your desk, act on all leads quickly and pursue the new channels that sprung up whilst you were out being a walking advertisement for your franchise business with enthusiasm and optimism. Once one of these converts, you’ll realise just how beneficial networking can be.
If you would like to network with Aspray and like-minded potential franchisees, why not attend one of our Discovery Seminars, which will tell you all about our franchise opportunity within the world of property insurance claims management and give you the opportunity to meet like-minded people. Call 0800 077 6705 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. More details are also available at www.asprayfranchise.co.uk.