One of the best ways to generate new business is by tapping into your target market through another business that caters to it. I am not talking about poaching clients from a fellow business, but strengthening your network of small businesses in your market so that together you can offer clients a complete package of services and/or products, which results in a win-win-win for you, your clients, and your fellow business owners. Business to business, or B2B, networking offers all kinds of benefits for entrepreneurs including increased brand exposure, greater professional credibility, and more efficient marketing leading to higher profits. Sounds great, right? Before you dive in, do your homework by reading up on these tips for B2B networking.
1. Address Business Owners Directly on Social Media
Yes, you need to send out blanket social media posts, newsletters, and blog posts. But if you want to develop fruitful relationships with other business owners, you also need to spend time addressing them one-on-one via social media. Take time to read the tweets, blog articles, and LinkedIn profile of a business owner you want to connect with and write personalized (but professional) responses to them by using the @ sign on Twitter or writing on their wall or tagging them in a Facebook post, for example. Keep it upbeat, relevant, and curious. Asking questions or applauding a post or product are great places to start. If you are social media illiterate, partner with a virtual assistant specializing in social media management and networking to help you get the ball rolling.
2. Use Online Connections to Create In-Person Relationships
Real life connections are far more powerful than strictly virtual relationships. That said, social networking sites are great places to plant the seeds for in-person connections. Once you have established some rapport with a fellow business owner online, ask her to coffee or approach her at a networking event you know you’ll both be at. Joining trade organization groups on Facebook and LinkedIn or participating in professional forums is a great way to introduce yourself to local business owners online that you’d like to connect with in-person. You may even be able to find B2B groups in your field on MeetUp.com.
3. Don’t Be Shy About Your Expertise
Customers want to partner with experts, and business owners want to associate with them. Being a wallflower won’t help you make a professional name for yourself; assert your knowledge and expertise through your social media and blog posts and in conversation with other business owners or at networking events. This doesn’t mean you need to be a know-it-all; on the contrary, confidently including your professional opinion and knowledge can flesh out professional conversations and lead to opportunities for shared marketing strategies and new connections.
4. Be a Helper
B2B relationships are long-term relationships whose payoffs can be great—if you are patient and consistent! A few ways to build long-term B2B relationships and cultivate your online network include:
- Referring clients to fellow businesses
- Sharing valuable content with no strings attached
- Answering questions in your area of expertise
- Help people in any way you can, including fellow business owners looking for resources, information, and support
- Present an attitude of positivity and service
What tips do you have for other business owners about B2B networking? What’s worked for you? What do you wish you would have known before diving into B2B relationship building?
There are so many different social media networks out there, each serving a different purpose. Grab some tips on how to make the most of your social media from my free workbook here!