How can my network support and grow my graphics business?
approx 5 minute read
In this article, we’ll take a look at strategies and support systems you can use to support and grow your business. Primarily, how business networking can be used to grow your business. We’ll focus on graphics businesses to give some context, but these apply to all small and medium sized businesses looking to grow, generate leads and get more customers, so let us know if you’d like some advice on your own industry and we’d be happy to help!
Nettl is a global network of local web, print and signs studios. We help businesses of all shapes and sizes get more customers through marketing and design. Please do feel free to get in touch below if you’d like to chat with your local Nettl team.
What is networking?
In a business and personal context, networking is connecting with other people. We network everyday when we comment on LinkedIn posts and email clients, when we chat with barber and bartender alike. All of this is building your understanding of the other person and enabling you to make a connection with each other. It enables you to authentically connect and generate trusted leads and referrals for one another to grow your businesses.
Why does networking feel difficult and awkward?
Overthinking, in the main. Some networking groups require an elevator pitch, ask for referrals or share presentations. This can sometimes feel contrived. It’s important to remember in these settings that you’re doing the very same as you do when the barber or the bartender asks, “So, what do you do yourself?”
Who’s in my network?
Some people would answer this with a screenshot of their 500+ connections on LinkedIn. Others, the names of the 30 people in their weekly networking group. Remember what networking is though? It’s when we make a connection with other people.
Your network is the group of people you have a connection with.
Those you lean on in times of crisis, those you love to do a favour for when they need it. They vary in degrees of closeness. Your network is the collection of people who can support you and your business. Let’s break that down:
Others in your industry can be a threat or a support system. It’s vital, especially for smaller or newer businesses, to cultivate relationships with others in their industry.
Especially in the creative industry, to create works that are relevant and successful, it’s integral that we have an in-depth understanding of the business and people behind the project. We can offer a more refined and tailored service to clients who we know well and enjoy working with.
Friends, families, acquaintances
Your network isn’t limited to working hours. Your friends, family and people you meet everyday are part of your network. They’re people you can call upon when you need advice or ideas. They’re who you can introduce to other network connections and who can introduce you to potential clients or partners. Never underestimate the shape and size of a connection. From small acorns, large oak trees grow.
How can networking assist new businesses?
Entrepreneurship needs support
It’s July 2020, the sun is shining brightly but there’s a dull cloud over our economy. Times of recession can bring unfathomable loss and difficulty. However, it’s undeniable that times of recession also inject innovation and entrepreneurship into our veins. We, as business owners and leaders, are forced to scrutinise our business model and processes in order to survive recession as a small or new business. Growing your network delivers a support group to you to help you do just that. Having a network can provide you with leads and customers. But it also provides so much more. Your network is a collection of people who know you, in the main probably share your values, and understand your vision. As you launch a new business in a recession or change your business structure, your network is the group that you can rely on for advice and feedback as well as some downright emotional support. Think of them as your business consultants. As the age old adage goes, no man is an island.
Strength in numbers
So, the last few months have seen pivot after pivot. You’re changing your offering, launching new products, arranging payment options you’ve never offered before, mixing up the structure of your business or perhaps started an entirely new graphics, print or signs business. There’s a big old world out there to tackle and a huge part of what will enable you to survive and thrive in difficult times is your businesses’ Share of Voice.
Share of Voice is all about how much of industry-related advertising and marketing your brand holds versus your competitors.
By growing your network within your industry, you can combine efforts, expertise and offering to grow your communal Share of Voice. This is super evident among Nettl partners, over the last few months in particular. Nettl partners span cities, countries and continents. Nettl’s a global network of local web, print and signs studios. Over the last 3 months Nettl partners have teamed together to create Support Websites for their local communities. They’ve created Reopening Guides to support their clients and communities navigate the unknown as they reopen their businesses. They’ve shared social post after social post. They’ve continuously optimised their sites and methodically maintained PPC campaigns. This benefits each Nettl studio across their local networks. They are supporting their clients and communities. It also benefits themselves in the whole market though, doesn’t it? If Nettl of Dublin, Ireland and Nettl of Cambridge, UK and Nettl of Breda, Holland are all sharing valuable ways for their clients to get more customers, it grows the worldwide strength of their network and brand.
We’ve had over 25 Partner Drop in Sessions and Group Training events over the last 3 months. Our partners and Performance team are coming together to share ideas, resolve issues and lay foundations for the future as a global network of local graphics businesses.
Local networks, globally
Many local businesses have seen a shift in consumer behaviour in the last weeks and months. An increased sentiment towards shopping local. They see shoppers valuing the opportunity to meet the producers behind their products, and interact first-hand with the creatives and craftsmen of their communities.
Consumers are valuing buying local more now than they have in a long time. When the doors of the world closed we had downtime to browse our local area. To see that local designer we’d not noticed before. Browsing online we found the portfolio of a signage maker up the road whose craft is unmatched. Our printer supported our business as we sent flyers ‘round the community to tell people about our click and collect option, our online store, our community street music.
With an increased sentiment towards buying local, it’s important to establish your foothold within your local community. Attend local networking events (if over video call, so be it), join community groups and drop a message to the businesses on your street to see how they’re doing. Your local network will be an extension of your sales team. As well as your cheer leaders! Local networks are an integral part of growing your new business.
Things for many businesses have gone a bit quiet of late. Clients are rich in time and that means they can get that web project started that they’d been pondering, or write content they’ve needed to send.
This is a hugely important time to nurture your relationships. Clients are feeling isolated and alone and you can provide a support structure to one another that might not exist otherwise. This McKinsey article talks about just that, and touches upon the importance of improving Customer Experience in times of crisis. A topic we dived into last month to find out how to effectively manage customer experience.
Now is a fantastic time to pick up the phone or grab a video call with your clients to understand them better. Clients are the most important stakeholders in your business. So why don’t you know them better? Everyone’s a little richer in time right now, and for those of us in the graphics and marketing industry, knowing your clients better means you can pre-empt and offer insights they can use to get more customers in the future. Spending 15 minutes a day on a call to a client or potential client to simply learn more about them will improve how you can serve them, and how they can support you.
So where do we even start with building and growing these relationships and networks?
We can all agree that from this day forward we’ll be viewing our businesses through a new lens, right? As the saying goes, “Tough times breed good men”. We’ve learned an awful lot about our business operations over the last 3 months. But how do we achieve the change we want? Easy. Habits.
Use habits to create and grow your network. Over the next 6 months, why not try the following each day, week and month?
Today: List the people you would seek support from. List the people who act as your ambassadors. List whose business you act as an ambassador for.
Tomorrow and each day following that: call 1 client or potential client and ask them; how they are, what they do, what they’re struggling with, what is keeping them going these past few weeks.
Next week and every week following that: organise at least 1 video call or face to distant face coffee with a client, an industry partner or a potential client to chew the fat and have a good time for 30 minutes. Remember to learn about them, their lives and families and interests. Please don’t try and sell things to them.
This month and every month for the next 6 months: attend at least 1 event in your local area or industry. Choose 1 person from that group to connect with on LinkedIn and organise a coffee and a chat.
In 6 months time: List the people you would seek support from. List the people who act as your ambassadors. List whose business you act as an ambassador for.
If you’re in the graphics, signs and print industry and are looking to grow your network and support, Nettl partners support one another and share branding, marketing, training and custom built CRM systems. Take a read here to learn more or drop a message to our Nettl team.
If you’re a local business owner looking to grow your business, through networking or through branding, marketing, design, print and signs, grab a coffee with your local Nettl studio to learn more about what you can do to get more customers