Professionalism online and benefits of networks

I was asked to stand in and provide the Education Slot at BNI Terriers, of which I am a member of, representing our partner organisation the Effective Group. When I asked what the talk was to be based around, I was advised “Professionalism online and the benefits of other networks and networking outside of BNI”.

So, I wrote the following and delivered it to the group on Wednesday morning, and as I believe you should repurpose all the content you create, I thought I would share it with you here, on our blog.

The same lessons should apply, whether you are finding referrals for others or generating business for your own organisation. 

The benefits of other networks give small businesses a competitive advantage, which can’t be replicated by large corporates.

Networking is about building trusted relationship where business is passed and reciprocated.  It is not a quick win situation and should certainly not be expected just because you are members of the same group.

When I talk with people about how to appear online, I ask them to think about the personality they want to portray. 

  • If you are an extremely strict and sombre firm, represent this. 
  • If you represent good quality and reliability, this needs to come across through branding and your marketing communications, including online.

You also need to take into the account “where your customers are”.  (for BNI purposes, where your potential referrals are).

When I first launched my online business presence in 2011, I thought I could hide personally on Facebook and use Linkedin and Twitter to discuss business.  But I quickly learnt if you want to talk to the people at the Facebook party, then you must be at the Facebook party.

Especially with the current covid situation, a LOT of our social time is now spent online. 

It has substituted the pub, the golf or cricket club and church amongst much more – the family Sunday dinner even!!

These are your networks.  Your Networks are not constrained to business situations – Paid up clubs where you exchange business. 

At University, my small business marketing module talked of PCN’s.  PCN’s are Personal Connection Networks.  These are the things we do where we make connections of trusted relationships.

All these feed into your membership of BNI and make you an effective member. 

  • Seeing that one of your Facebook friends has asked about an emergency boiler breakdown,
  • someone is asking for recommendations for Linkedin trainers,
  • someone in a village busy body group asking for someone to line and paint their lounge

… are all good signals to look out for.

And they are true examples of conversations I have screenshotted with my fellow members recently.

They are the same as

  • Hearing someone across you in the pub saying
  • or your teammate in the changing rooms before a game
  • or at another networking event. 

But let me say, I would not classify these as referrals for BNI purposes.

This is just part of being an active networker. 

Referrals happen when conversations progress and telephone numbers and email addresses are exchanged.

And so,

I hope you have enjoyed this whistle stop tour of relationship marketing, your personality online and how you have an advantage as a small business (and BNI member) to utilise your PCN’s and can reap the benefits of other networks.

BNI is the world’s leading business networking and referral organisation.

The Terriers chapter has passed £1,978,016 GBP in the past 12 months!

If you would like to come to Terriers as a visitor or find out more about BNI please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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