How to grow your business & not lose your mind (Part 6- Network)

Either you have a decent network already, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you need one. Period. Why? Because no matter how much time, money, passion, technology, knowledge and effort you have invested in your business, you simply cannot grow and succeed without people buying what you are selling. Right?

When you hear the phrase “word of mouth marketing” – don’t you instantly say “I wish!”? Well, you can have word of mouth marketing as your most powerful resource and you will if you are willing to do the work!

Now let’s be realistic. It is incredibly usual to start your business with a very small existing network. VERY small. And still grow successfully. I started with THREE people in my immediate potential network. They were three women entrepreneurs. And they were friends. Within the first three months, my network expanded to 60. Now, there will be some out there who will say “60? Big deal! I can get 600 in 6 days. Yadayadayada.” I don’t care what they say. And neither should you.

How many do you need? That’s what matters. My goal when I started? To have at least 10 exceptionally enthusiastic new women entrepreneurs in a room to network, learn and share on a weekly basis, over three months, and I did. From knowing only three women in my direct target group, I managed to create a vibrant live networking environment with a dozen women every week, with a healthy mix of new and repeat guests. Apparently to meet my goal I needed to know or meet 60 women. That’s all I needed to make a winning kick-start to a part-time but successful business.

How did I grow from a network of three to 60 in three months?

Here is what I did, in order of successful impact, to grow my network in the beginning. Number one is the most successful strategy I used in growing my list, number six the least successful.

  1. I asked my three original entrepreneur friends to refer and invite their colleagues, friends, family
  2. I told all my family what I was doing & hounded those willing to become active campaigners on my behalf to get “bums in seats” to my first live training events
  3. I invited guest entrepreneurs to my live events to enhance the marketing lessons I shared. I gave them some complimentary seats for my events and asked them to share my events with their network. I told them specifically who my target audience was, who I thought they knew, told them what to say, and when to ask!
  4. I built a Facebook business page for early fans (because my website was NOT one I loved or was proud of at that time so this was an early and successful referral engine).
  5. I created a local poster campaign (community-based marketing in the same community where live events were located).
  6. I ran local community newspaper advertising (I didn’t think it would work but wanted to test the medium to find out – each $150 placement had cost recovery with 2 new registered guests – do you think this was great or not so much? Let’s discuss!)

When reflecting on my entire 7 resources philosophy, it is clear my network was scarce, but I used three abundant resources – marketing knowledge, passion and time – to really efficiently work the network I did have to build new leads from existing networks. And I used every second of extra time to create some very focused local community marketing to draw out new businesses to community based events.

By the way, the first five of these strategies still apply to my business today. Even as my business grows, the first two points are still the most successful strategies for most part time entrepreneurs. And the rest have a place in online and traditional marketing strategies and online communities. How do these translate for your business?

So, how many people DO you need?

Calculating how many you need in your network is a big part of effectively calculating costs and revenue. You may need way more than 60 people to satisfy your financial requirements. Or you may need less. But either way, the numbers always must eventually focus more on quality leads and people who are seriously interested in what problems you may solve for them, than having the biggest unqualified list.

Now, I’m not a mathematician. In fact, I was one of those students who could find the answer but either didn’t know how, or care to, show my work! So, business planning folks and forecasters may hate my extrapolated style of planning. But it works for me, and it may work for you to see my point. To calculate how many people in your network you need, try this simple exercise:

  1. Figure out how many widgets you need to sell or hours of service you need to sell to cover your costs.
  2. Figure out how many customers you need to meet that sales or service hours goal.
  3. Figure out how much profit you want and how many more customers you need to make that happen. Add that to the number in 2.
  4. Realize that not everyone is going to buy what you are selling right now, so multiply those numbers by 10 (assumes 10% of people will respond to what you are selling at any given time IF you have a very focused, targeted, ever growing list).
  5. How many really qualified leads are in your network right now?
  6. How big is the gap between how many you said you need to cover your costs (in 2) and be profitable (in 3)?
  7. So now you have a goal. If you are involved in my Decision-Makers Marketing Mapping program or have another ‘live’ marketing document you work with, write this down. It is a goal – “Build my network by XX people by (insert a deadline)”. The “how” varies widely and is discussed in my marketing classes and programs. But for now, this “what” is critical to focus you on an action plan.

So, how many people in your network do you have? How many do you need? How can you get there? You can start with 3 and still succeed. Let me know if you are stuck! Or share your successful network building story.

More information on growing your business:

  • Read the entire “How to grow your business & not lose your mind” free article series to fill some knowledge gaps.
  • Sign up for the next powerful Decision-Makers Marketing Mapping class & 6-month Momentum Mapping program.
  • Be sure you are on my subscriber list (right column, look up at the top) & receive the free: 15 Essential Tips for Part Time Entrepreneurs.
  • When you subscribe, you’ll be first student in line to join the new Grow It Yourself Marketing Academy starting in September! (open for general student registration August 8th)
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