Professional networking sites and events are proliferating but not all are sincere in helping us to promote our businesses. This article hypothesises on this dilemma and poses some critical questions you should ask yourself before investing valuable development time, and possibly money, in attempting to promote your business or services this way.
Attracting new clients is always a challenge. In an ever more crowded marketplace, getting ourselves noticed by potential clients can seem an impossible mission. This is why professional business-to-business (B2B) networking platforms can seem like an attractive option.
But our natural eagerness to promote our business can lead us to make hasty decisions, so there are several factors that small business owners and entrepreneurs should consider before committing time and money to any networking platform or event.
It is crucial to exercise caution and conduct thorough research before committing to any such platform. ‘Let buyer beware’ applies here just as with any commitment that will cost you time or money.
Visibility and credibility
Firstly, visibility plays a crucial role. If the platform or event (or series of events) is not well-known within its target industry, or lacks a clear and strong marketing strategy, it will struggle to get the attention of suitable client organisations for its members to connect with.
Without proper visibility, it becomes difficult for relevant businesses to discover and engage with the platform.
Targeting the right audience is essential. The platform must listen to and understand the needs and preferences of its users, and tailor its offer accordingly. If it fails to do this, potential business users won’t find the platform appealing or relevant to their specific requirements.
Standing out from the competition is vital. Platforms like Linkedin and Professionals UK (among many others you could choose from) operate in a crowded market. If they don’t offer unique features, services, or value propositions, they can easily get lost among other options.
It’s important for a platform to differentiate itself and clearly communicate its distinct advantages to attract new clients.
The core idea that drives business networking is to connect service providers with parties who are looking specifically for those services. If these two are not visible in the same space (at the event or on the platform), then no such connections can happen.
Trust and credibility also play a significant role in attracting clients in the B2B space. When individuals are eager to promote their business and attract new clients, they can become vulnerable to making hasty decisions, which in turn makes them susceptible to unscrupulous B2B platforms or event organisers.
The natural desire for quick results and increased visibility may cloud their judgment and lead them to overlook important factors like credibility, reputation, and value.
In their haste to gain exposure, they may be enticed by promises of instant success or exaggerated claims made by promoters with dubious intentions. Organisers and platforms may exploit the vulnerability of potential service users by offering unrealistic guarantees, charging high fees, tie-ins, or engaging in unethical practices.
Taking the time to verify the platform’s credentials, reading independent reviews and testimonials, and seeking advice from trusted sources can help protect individuals from getting tied into a platform that cannot deliver on its promises. Consider talking to other users of the platform or service, to verify if the organiser’s claims hold up.
Additionally, consulting with industry professionals or joining business communities can provide valuable insights and guidance to avoid hasty decisions. The aim should always be to ensure that you are engaging with a reliable networking service whose values truly align with your business ideals and needs.
Business owners are rightly cautious when entering partnerships or making financial decisions. Therefore, a platform must establish trust by showcasing positive reviews, testimonials, and a proven track record of successful collaborations.
Unfortunately, fake testimonials are common these days, so be particularly diligent about any reviews or recommendations.
User experience is another crucial factor. If a B2B platform is difficult to navigate, has a complicated registration process, or lacks user-friendly features, businesses may be deterred from engaging with it.
A smooth and intuitive user experience is key to attracting and retaining clients, and the overall effectiveness of the platform is critical in assuring trust and reliability.
Can it deliver?
When assessing whether a networking service can deliver on its promises, you should be able to use it for a trial period. ‘Buyer beware’ is the watchword here. Frequent error messages and broken links, for example, are signs that the platform is not well maintained. If the tech isn’t up to it, the likelihood is that their customer service won’t be better.
Effective marketing and promotion by the platform are also essential. Networking organisations must invest in strategies that raise awareness and reach the target audience of their members and service users.
This includes digital marketing efforts, content creation, search engine optimisation, and partnerships with industry influencers to expand their reach and engage potential clients. Linkedin is a good example of how proactivity in these areas underpins the image of the platform and supports its members.
While the effectiveness of B2B networking platforms in attracting new clients can vary based on industry and market conditions, you should always look to the factors mentioned here first.
Be critical in your thinking, do your due diligence, and be don’t swayed by your eagerness to promote your business. ‘Let buyer beware’ is sound advice when navigating the oceans of networking possibilities.