Hot tubs and networking go together, really? Yes, in or out of the spa…particularly for the hot tub professional.
Whether online or in-person, think of networking as leveraging resources to improve your hot tub retail business. Businessdictionary.com defines networking as “creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.” In the definition, it’s pointed out that networking is based on the question “How can I help?” and not “What can I get?”
Why Would I Want to Network?
Based on a recent Referral Institute study, the time people invest in business networking is directly related to the business generated by that time. The research showed that businesses who spent an average of 6.5 hours per week networking reported that these activities played a role in their success. Business networking guru Dr. Ivan Misner further states that people who are applying between 5 and 9 hours a week to networking are, on average, generating 50% of their business from these activities.
“Trust in the form of reliability, honesty, integrity, mutual values, and respect is the future currency of success.” - Teresa Bassham, Founder and Director of Zenworkz Authentic Marketing
First and foremost, business networking is about building relationships—people buy from people they like and trust, especially when it comes to deciding where to spend that large chunk of disposable income. Then those people talk about the experience with others who may be interested in that same product or service. Marketing Coach Teresa Bassham affirms that “trust in the form of reliability, honesty, integrity, mutual values, and respect is the future currency of success.” Perhaps even more so for retailers of higher-priced, big-ticket items like spas.
Networking also serves as an excellent source not just for leads, but for those more meaningful, qualified referrals. And there definitely is a difference between the two. According to Grant Stanley, CEO of Contemporary Analysis, a lead is when you receive a person’s or company’s contact information because “what you do would work well with what they do, or someone knows they are in need of your services.” A referral, on the other hand, is when you’re given information for a person or company who needs your business/product and has already been informed about you. Essentially, “a referral is a lead that comes with a stamp of approval and trust.” The referral has a much greater chance at conversion since the two of you, although indirectly, have already begun to establish a rapport.
Lastly, networking offers an opportunity to learn about tried and true business tactics. Hearing from other business owners can help you generate new ideas and avoid mistakes others have made. Many pool and spa retailers run out of ideas or inspiration, especially when they are managing day-to-day activities. If you find yourself in a slump, it’s wise to look elsewhere. Connecting with like-minded business owners, in and out of the hot tub industry, can provide you with ideas and information critical to your business’s growth and overall performance.
How Do I Network?
We’ve all heard that it’s not what you say, but how you say it. In fact, back in the ’60s Professor Albert Mehrabian found that, in terms of feelings and attitudes, only 7% of communication is word choice (actual words), 38% is the way we say our words (inflection), and 55% is how we look when we speak (facial expressions). Despite the recent increase in virtual business collaboration tools, studies show that there is no contest as to the effectiveness of in-person interactions. Greatbusinessschools.org states that “face-to-face conversations tend to be more positive, and perceived as more credible, than online conversations.” So in-person networking can prove much more beneficial than online or phone activities for the retailer looking to build his circle of contacts.
Face-to-face networking is easy when you go prepared. While showing up is important, a few key elements are essential to bring to any networking event. Always have more than enough business cards to leave with all of those attending. Greatbusinesschools.org declares that “a business card is a physical connection to make both a first and lasting impression.” Also carry along a few flyers to give out should someone ask questions about the specific customer pain points your hot tub business addresses. And of course, you should have an elevator pitch ready that quickly explains what you do and how you do it in an interesting, captivating tone. Instead of “We sell hot tubs,” try something like “We provide the best bubbles in the business.” Sure, you may get some inquisitive looks, but that just opens the door for explanation and further discussion (which is where the good stuff comes in anyway).
Who Should I Network With?
It’s not just about how many you know, but more about who you know. In other words, knowing the right people is key to making networking efforts worth your while. Dr. Ivan Misner recommends identifying the right people using two categorical filters: 1) those serving your preferred clients and 2) those offering the potential to help you meet your business goals. “If you build a trusting and giving relationship with someone who provides services for your preferred client market, it stands to reason that your referral potential will increase dramatically … And if you network with the people who have the experience and connections to guide you toward your goal, you will be well on your way to accomplishing it.”
The opportunities for networking are nearly endless. Think about people you know and those you could know. Do you take the time to network in your community, maybe through church, school, book clubs, or walking groups? Why not join the Chamber of Commerce or other local associations? Have you explored organized lead and referral groups in your area, like BNI? Do you network within the retail industry? Do you participate in your local trade or APSP association meetings (www.apsp.org)?
“If you build a trusting and giving relationship with someone who provides services for your preferred client market, it stands to reason that your referral potential will increase dramatically.
Business Insider reported that the US moved up from #4 to #2 of the world’s 16 most creative countries in 2011. Since associating with the same groups all of the time can limit creativity, expanding your networking circles can enhance your sphere of influence. Join or create your own group of entrepreneurs from various industries to share ideas on management, improving business processes, finances, etc. You can even recruit all the retailers on your street to plan sales events and meetings on how to improve local retail traffic. Join online groups or participate in blogs to stir your imagination and improve your business knowledge.
Offering support through networking channels can be more than an enriching and gratifying experience for the hot tub professional. The strong, mentor-style relationships you build within your networks can be priceless. In a study conducted between July 2014 and June 2013, MicroMentor’s 2014 Business Outcomes Survey found that mentored businesses increased revenues by 83% while non-mentored businesses only grew their revenues by 16%.
Helping others improve their business is not only a learning opportunity for the receiving end. It can also be an insightful experience for the one lending the hand. Plus, mentoring boosts confidence for both the seasoned professional and the less experienced involved. A healthy exchange of ideas outside your retail store’s four walls can even lead to a healthier way to approach idea exchange within your business and among your staff.
Here is a quick challenge. Before the week’s end, join a networking group or association in your local community. Commit and schedule to attending their next meeting. In doing so, you are preparing to boost your know-how, your confidence, your business outcomes…and possibly a number of attendees at your next hosted hot tub party!