Word of Mouth: Networking as Marketing?

Networking is undoubtedly an important professional activity, but could you use it for marketing – or even as your sole means of marketing? By harnessing word of mouth’s power while providing a quality good or service with potential to help people, it’s possible to build a brand your contacts are eager to share with their network. Â

In order to build marketing by word of mouth, however, you have to learn how to network adeptly. At the heart of it is creating, nurturing, and developing relationships. To do this adeptly, Canadian businessman Michael J. Hughes, whose successful Ottawa, Ontario-based consulting company markets solely via word of mouth, outlines six parts of the networking process to master:

  • Make the approach/impression – Spend the first five seconds like a host, making your discussion partner feel comfortable while taking charge, smiling, and listening closely.
  • Build rapport – Active listening works wonders in building rapport because it shows genuine interest and gives your discussion partner a sense of safety. As Hughes said, “Wanting to know more about a person is one of the biggest compliments we can pay.”
  • Structure the conversation – When springboarding off of the rapport into the meat of the conversation, keep your discussion partner in mind once more. By structuring the discussion around him or her and showing genuine interest, you’ll be able to foster trust that leads to successful business relationships. Wait to present your message or selling point until a sense of trust has been established, and be careful to not get preachy or come off as giving a presentation. Remember, the focus should be relationships. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Hughes said.
  • Close with confidence – Few things get more awkward than when a conversation should end but no one is willing to make it happen. Take charge by moving out of out of the conversation while helping your conversation partner transition into another one. Include a next step – offer to keep in touch, schedule a time to talk again – so the next point of contact will be expected (and you can gauge the interest for it). Be sure to thank the other person for his or her time.
  • Follow up – Keep good on your word by carrying out whatever next steps were set in the conversation. Find legitimate, value-adding reasons to stay in touch. This will not only keep you top of mind, but it also shows follow through, which is sorely lacking in today’s business landscape.
  • Nurture the relationship – Again, the end goal is not to make a sale. As you foster a real relationship with others in your field, inevitably they’ll want to refer you to those in their networks and vice versa. Look for ways to partner with them on clients, create referral opportunities, or find other points of overlap, and you’ll be able to expand your network and find ever-increasing opportunities.

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