Do you ever wonder how to get in contact with other businesses? One of my favorite ways to get new clients and book commissions as a surface designer is through network marketing.
You might have heard this term before. Maybe it even leaves a bad taste in your mouth, because of what you have heard. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You can use it to your advantage and stay true to yourself.
Why does networking work?
Each person, on average, knows 600+ people throughout his or her lifetime. Studies show that approximately 150 of those connections can be retained in one’s brain at the same time. So it’s safe to say that everyone meets and knows a lot of people and network marketing makes use of all the personal and business-related connections we and others have.
What is Network Marketing?
The answer is in its name: it’s a way of marketing, where you use your network of people to spread the word about your services. Those could be friends and family, or existing business partners.
Because the more people who know about you, the more likely it is that someone will reach out to you for a commission or licensing deal.
You may already know this, but I’m a fan of proactive marketing strategies — so is Shannon — and waiting for recommendations isn’t proactive at all. You may want to join a network marketing group or association to do this more efficiently — there are local and worldwide groups. I would always recommend visiting them as a guest 2–3 times to see if you like their energy and their group of people.
Why should you join a network marketing group?
By joining such a group, you get instant access to 15, 30 or more business owners, depending on the group’s size. This means you’ll benefit from their existing economic network of people as they may know someone who can help you or needs your services. Or if not, they might do so in the future and instantly think of you.
But if they don’t know you, they can’t recommend you. So just by joining or visiting a group once, you might find a new business partner. However, by going to their regular meetings, you’ll get to know the people behind the businesses.
You might have heard of this saying before: people buy from people. But it’s true because real trust is built by getting to know one another, especially for small businesses.
For example, if you compare two hair salons and they both offer you the same price, which one would you go to? The bubbly, cheerful girl with pink hair, or the serious guy in a suit with a very well-maintained beard? There is no right or wrong answer. But it shows how much personality matters.
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The power of referral marketing
Referral marketing, or word-of-mouth marketing, is pretty amazing. It’s powerful if done right AND it’s one marketing option that can’t be bought. This means it’s a very honest way to show someone that you love what they do.
That’s why word-of-mouth works so well, because the trust someone has in you transfers into the referral onto the next person. Because no one would refer a plumber to their friend if they had done a bad job fixing their own issue. And it’s the same in business. If you refer your friend to your client, but the client ends up being dissatisfied, that emotion travels over to your business relationship with your client. And the same is true for well-executed work. So always be mindful of whom you refer.
More benefits of joining a network marketing group
When you meet the same group week after week, you’ll get to know each other on a deeper, personal level and get more comfortable with each other. That’s why many people in network marketing groups become really good friends. And sharing with friends is a no-brainer. It’s safe to say that within these groups, you can ask each other for advice, tips, and even favors.
There’ll be entrepreneurs just starting out or running the business alongside their full-time job and there will be people with years of experience. And in every group, there is one hard rule: industry exclusivity. This means you don’t have to fight for a job with someone else. But it also means there are businesses from a broad range of industries. This can be very valuable if you ever need any information.
You’ll also get more confident in presenting yourself and your business to others. You’ll continually work on your elevator pitch and get better at holding presentations, as these are all parts of the regular meetings. So let’s take a closer look at how a network marketing meeting is structured.
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Network marketing meetings in detail
All network marketing groups work slightly differently, but they all use the same components in different order and strictness.
Most groups meet weekly or bi-monthly, either very early in the morning (around 7 am) or late in the evening (around 7 pm). Be aware that some are very strict about attendance so you can’t miss a meeting or have to send a replacement. This can be a friend or another business owner you know. Other teams might not be as strict on this rule, but attendance is desired. If you’re not there, no one can tell you about their business partners who are interested in your work.
There is also a membership fee to join and a catering cost per meeting. The cost may sound steep if you are just starting out, but I’ve always made back that money and more. I’ll give a more detailed look into my personal experience further down.
You also never have to stay hungry or thirsty, because catering is always provided to team members and guests. Which makes the whole morning/evening way more enjoyable.
Every member and guest has approximately one minute to introduce themselves and their business to all who attend the meeting. This will be done at every meet-up. It might seem a bit over the top at first, but if you are ever at a meeting, you’ll realize you don’t remember what everyone does just after one short introduction. It will also help you to be precise about how you introduce yourself and refine your elevator pitch and get more comfortable doing so again and again.
There’s usually one member who gets about ten minutes to show a full presentation. One-minute presentations are fun, but getting more in-depth information about a company is essential to being able to refer someone. Another one will present a business tip from their industry. In our group, these are tips like cyber security, how to prep for a photo shoot, or options on sustainable promotional items.
The members then announce the turnover they have generated because of the network since the last meeting and make project recommendations to other members or guests. This is to show proof that this method works and brings in new clients, but it’s also to say thank you to members for bringing in business.
The official part of each meeting usually lasts for about an hour. Afterwards, you are free to stay to talk to each other about possible collaborations. From my experience, this is the most important part.
I can’t even count how often we sat together for another three hours just casually talking about our hobbies and interests until one person suddenly has an idea and asks me to look into it for the next meeting and prepare a quote. A lot of these evenings ended in a contract and project together.
My personal experience being part of a network marketing association
I’ve been a member since October 2019. When I joined my group, I had no idea if I’d like it or if I would benefit from it. I wasn’t even running a full-time business yet and I felt out of place with all those more experienced business owners. I felt that being there didn’t have any added value for the group, because I didn’t have a network yet which meant I couldn’t bring guests with me or hand out recommendations.
It took me a while to feel fully comfortable with myself there but I never regretted my decision to join. After a while, I got to know and love the people in my group, who welcomed me with open arms. Ever so slowly, I started to build up my own small network and I even took on the role of marketing for my group.
I was also worried I wouldn’t get any new clients from joining, especially because these groups often have members from industries like architecture, law, or commerce. And at first, you might believe that they don’t need your services. I was more than surprised to see the interest they had in my business.
And after a while, I understood why. Because before they didn’t know anyone who offered these services — and now they did. So they suddenly had new ideas and came to me for development or execution. Every year I look into the numbers and realize that I always make back my investment and then some!
My suggestion to you would be to just try joining a networking association.
Try it for a year and see for yourself if you enjoy it and if it helps your business grow. Because every business is different and what works for someone doesn’t necessarily work for another person. But I honestly believe that you’ll gain valuable experience doing so.
Written by Nina Schindlinger
Nina is an Austrian Illustrator & Surface Designer who got her Illustration degree from Ballyfermot College of Further Education, Dublin. Her design style is playful, soft and charming with lots of textures for people who are still young at heart. She loves cats, black tea and is addicted to pink.