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Growing your business [Part 2] Growing a network of contacts

Your business networks: be aware of them, cultivate them and grow them.

No matter what your business is, it is unlikely that it won’t benefit from maintaining networks of contacts for marketing purposes. Park the GDPR issue for a moment, we’ll come to that.

Networks come in many formats:

  • Immediate group of colleagues
  • Clients, past and present
  • Referrers/recommenders
  • Suppliers and day-to-day contacts
  • Social media networks, particularly Linked In
  • Prospects – people you’d like to do business with
  • Your own personal circle of friends, family and acquaintances

There are many types of networks and we assume you can add your own ideas to this brief list. What’s important is to identify the people already within your networks and continue to grow each one.

A business operating within a static environment is not going to thrive. But a business with a steady flow of contacts brings opportunity, fresh thinking and dynamism.

There will be some networks within which you have a natural communication – your immediate work colleagues, circle of friends and existing clients for example. It’s important to look at all of your groups of contacts, make sure you are prioritising your energies into addressing communications with each one and ensuring that you are giving out the right message. It sounds exhausting but you’ll be doing a lot of it automatically anyway.

Consider your list of prospects. They might be formal and take the form of a contact management system. It might be a short handwritten list at the back of your notebook. You may not have one at all (but we suggest you do!). Think about why you’re looking for more business, why you have a list of people you’d like to work with and turn it on its head – why should they work with you? Once you know what your key messages are, then they are easier to impart.

If you are a stationers, maybe your offering is a faster delivery, better discounts and a wider range. You want more business to drive growth and your profits but your prospects (quite rightly) don’t need to know that. It’s the service that will attract them so that’s where your key messages come into play.

It’s the same when you’re talking to the bank, your solicitor or your postman. Tell them what you do, make your business important to them – you don’t know when they might recommend you and turn into your number one referrer.

Regarding the thorny issue of GDPR with respect to prospecting and cold calling, it’s good to know that known contacts; people who you already have a relationship with; or those with whom you have a legitimate business interest/connection are fine to develop. This is, of course, unless they have asked not to be contacted in which case, view it as a valuable opt-out (why waste time?). Giving people the option to leave your network is also required by law. Try and use people’s business emails as hotmail, yahoo and aol style addresses often indicate personal addresses and are harder to justify in a business context.

It doesn’t really matter how you manage your networks – that’s down to your business, its systems and the people within it. What’s important is that you recognise the value of carefully nurturing each one so you are surrounded by people who know what you do, how well you do it and are either able to use your services or have enough knowledge to be able to tell others about them.

On a final note, genuinely understanding the people in your network and recommending them is also a key part of the relationship – making it work for everyone is a surefire way to energise your contact bank.

Your networks are your business foundations and it’s hard to think of any organisation that doesn’t have some kind of network to power it.

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