Building Your Network and Platform
One of the most effective ways of telling your story is by building your network. As any business scales it will inevitably deal with an ever-increasing number of customers and suppliers, as well as partners or enablers such as providers of all the myriad of services that will be required.
Many of these contacts will come about simply as they provide a solution to a specific requirement that your business may have, but these do not form part of telling your story and building your network. Instead, networking is deliberately going to events and undertaking other activities, either in person or virtually, in order to meet interesting new contacts. Depending on your business this may mean potential clients or wider partners, but all will help to raise the profile of your business and increase sales.
So much of doing businesses is about ‘buying’ the person and this is especially true with smaller or early-stage businesses and those that are in the service industry in some way or have direct contact with customers. As such, networking enables each of us to meet with interesting new contacts and learn about how they might add value to your own proposition, or selling your business service or product to others.
Any networking should be done intelligently, that is, it should always be more about quality than quantity and making sure that you take the time to understand how you and your business may interact with them. There are two forms of networking, one is simply building a database to act as a sales funnel and should be viewed as a more transactional process, whilst the other, and in my opinion more valuable, is building a network of stronger contacts where both sides can genuinely help the other in some form.
Whichever type of networking you are engaged in will have a multiplier effect. The dictionary definition of a network is ‘an interconnected group or system’ which itself implies that it is an intricate web or matrix and not just a relationship between two points. The power comes from when a number of these points, or contacts, are introduced to each other and all start working together in a win-win situation.
The more people there are and the stronger those relationships are then the more the multiplier effect will be seen. The larger your network, the bigger your audience to tell your story to will be and the more people will be out there spreading the word on your behalf.
As your business scales and your network grows along with it, then so too does the need for you to build your platform to ensure that your business is able to keep up with the growth. Indeed, it should not be about keeping up, but more about staying one or two steps ahead of your growth.
As has been clearly seen in recent years, your operating platform will need to be flexible enough to be able to adapt in times of need so that systems will allow flexibility such as working from home or building hours around a better work / life balance where possible.
We have all witnessed, or been the victim of, a business that offered a great customer experience when they were small but only to lose that as they grew and turn the customer experience into a nightmare when growing rapidly and not ensuring that platforms have been upgraded to cope with the expansion. Goodwill that has taken many years to build can be lost very quickly.
A good database or CRM is a must for a business to keep track of clients and sales and to ensure that it complies with GDPR. Remember also that any systems or procedures are much easier to establish when your business is small rather than trying to retrofit them after. But however you build your platform and whatever systems and procedures that you implement, make sure that they are flexible and can be adapted to fit changing circumstances and scaled to stay one step ahead of your growing business.
This series of articles follows themes explored in more detail in my new book, Startup to Scale-up : what funders expect at each stage Go to the link to order your copy and use the discount code 10off-start-to-scale to get a 10% discount.