Is networking an important source of new business for your firm? If so what is your networking strategy? If you have a good answer to this, you won’t need to read on…
The subject of networking is an interesting topic in the context of marketing a professional service firm. I’ve given the matter some thought recently, partly because I was trying to make it work for my own business, partly because I was advising my clients on the subject but mostly because I was asked to give to a talk on the subject to a networking group which always focuses the mind!
My conclusion is that networking is an important but poorly thought through source of new business for professional services firms.
A question I ask prospective clients is – do they want to increase their fee income? They naturally say yes. Then I ask them to describe their new business activity. Immediately they go into talking about all the usual broadcasting techniques like seminars, articles and speeches. Then I ask them where they currently get most of their new business from. Almost without exception the answer is “word of mouth referrals”. Then I ask – so tell me about your word of mouth referral strategy – but so far nobody has ever had one of those. Isn’t that interesting! About 80% of all new business comes to professional services firms from referral sources and yet not a strategy in sight.
Networking groups are an interesting phenomenon. The object of the groups is to refer business to each other. A few years ago I was invited to attend one by a well meaning friend. However I ran away scared from what felt like “a very American idea”. However recently an experienced architect friend invited me to attend his networking group. The group is a mix of professionals and building industry people. What I have noticed after six months or so is that the building guys are all starting to refer work to each other – the architect to the builder carpenter, the carpenter to the painter and so on. My observation is this networking thing works.
I realised that the group was working for the building guys but not for me so I did some reading and some thinking and I boiled it down to the following thoughts which could form the basis of a networking strategy: