Nothing takes the pressure off like a bit of networking

DRINKING red wine and eating finger food with industry peers is more effective in attracting work then either adverting or providing cheap rates, according to a survey of Perth senior management and executives.

A telephone poll of 129 senior executives over the past two weeks, commissioned by WA Business News and undertaken by JMG Marketing (Aust) Pty Ltd, highlighted the strong importance managers place on networking.

When asked what avenues brought in the most new business, almost 50 per cent of the respondents considered networking as the best method. A further 9.8 per cent said word of mouth was an effective means of receiving business.

Advertising a product or service was viewed by 25.4 per cent as the most effective means of bringing in new business, while competitive pricing was viewed as the least important method of attracting work.

Australian Institute of Management (AIM) executive director Patrick Cullen said the whole idea of business was to get people together, and networking was the best way for that to occur.

“By developing very solid networks of people you are then in a position to draw on and use that network for your own business,” he said.

“It gives an opportunity to share war stories, pick people’s brains and to share ideas about business.”

In her book How to Master Networking, Robyn Henderson says networking had replaced the cold-calling techniques of the 1980s.

“Networking takes all the pressure off. If they (the employees) regularly attend networking functions, they don’t have to cold call. They simply follow up the people they meet at networking functions,” she says.

“In the networking environment, if you can help people get what they want, they will help you get what you want.”

But Mr Cullen said it was wrong to suggest that only networking was required.

“I think there are many, many ways to generate business, but at the end of the day you need a good product or service,” he said.

“It’s a combination of goods and services supported by good marketing. At the end of the day, eyeball to eyeball networking is very powerful.”

Anecdotal evidence from AIM-run networking functions shows that, while networking has become more popular as businesses begin to see the benefits, the growth has been steady.

“There has been no phenomenal growth in relation to our own networking functions. The general trend has been on the increase, but it hasn’t been ballistic and it hasn’t gone through the roof,” Mr Cullen said.

So what networking functions are successful?

AIM has discovered that there are three main variables that have an impact on attendances at a function.

“Firstly, it depends very much on the topic. While people like to network, you also need to provide a strong hook,” Mr Cullen said. “The second most important thing is the speaker and third the choice of venue.

“And over hanging it all is the quality of the brand of the organisation and its reputation.”

AIM has found that there are some well-tested generic topics that continue to attract the business community. Leadership, innovation and change, although an age-old issue, has become prominent in the past five years, according to AIM.

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