A key objective of strategic networking is assuring a flow of new clients through the door. Retention of your existing clients is absolutely necessary and challenging in and of itself, but the acquisition of new clients provides for growth. If you are not taking measures to acquire new clients, attrition of your existing base will mean your business will decline over time. “Filling the pipeline” is the phrase often used to describe the strategy of continually developing new contacts for your business.
Most travel planners use a variety of tactics to acquire new clients. Certainly referrals a big part of keeping the pipeline full, as are your networking activities, speaking opportunities and advertising. Periodically, however, those tactics need to be re-examined, organized and supplemented with new ones. Networking is one of the best ways to market locally in your community; it is also one of the most underutilized because it is often not approached methodically. Hopefully, this week’s series of articles has assisted you to integrate networking tactics into your marketing plan.
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Networking as a marketing activity should be directed through a number of alternative channels.
- Clients – spend time networking with your existing clients on a regular basis. Remember that networking is about building relationships, not just meeting people. Seek to build firm relationships that are strong enough that you can ask for referrals, introductions and opportunities to meet individuals that are within your clients’ sphere of influence.
- The Business Community – other business people in your locality are excellent opportunities for new clients and for cross-marketing. Seek out opportunities to network with business people on a regular basis.
- Your staff – support your staff in reaching out to their spheres of influence and incorporate your entire company into your networking strategy. Make each employee and business associate a missionary for the company. Allow staff the freedom and the time for networking, and then hold them accountable for results.
Business people often do not network out of fear of rejection. Social situations can feel awkward and all of us want to make sure we are not inappropriately imposing ourselves on others. That is why networking needs to be studied, supported and promoted in your company. Becoming comfortable with networking and supporting your staff members in their efforts will make it easier to develop a mindset that is continually and creatively looking for networking opportunities.
Simply spending time looking at networking as a viable client acquisition channel will likely be productive. Organizing and evaluating how you acquire new clients by incorporating a formal networking program will help insure that your business will continue to grow.