Networking & Business Advertising - Soft Sell or Hard Sell?

Imagine being able to reach 1000s of business people for the fraction of the cost associated with general advertising. Well now you can use online networking platforms dedicated to businesses.

Many online platforms have dedicated areas where business people can advertise their services for free once they are a paying member. In Ecademy we have Marketplace which was a lot more powerful when the adverts were shown on the front page than it is now.

The best way to start on these sites is to participate in the discussion on the blogs page and slowly work your way towards advertising your wares in their marketplace. There is nothing worse than to join a site, plaster it with adverts for a few weeks and then leave never to be heard of again!

The worst thing you can do is to advertise your business in areas that are designated for blogging only. In Ecademy we have the Blogs area where it is OK to talk about business and non business related issues but is frowned upon by the members when they create what is known as a "blogvert" - in essence this is a shameless plug which makes almost no attempt at hiding the advert for their products.

Most of these sites promote "soft selling "as opposed to "hard selling" tactics.

In a nutshell what this means is that when you join do not blast your proposition to each and every member but rather try and entice them into asking about your business and what you can do for them. Do not be too pushy or manipulative. Realise that most people who join these platforms have also got businesses and that they will be trying to make contacts with potential buyers as well.

I believe in the theory of random connections. Basically what I mean by this is that one should not purely base their networking on the basis of potential business but rather focus on making decent connections and contacts. Strive to help other people and you never know who might in turn return the favour... if not now maybe in many years to come.

The art of online networking is to not to expect too much too quickly. The benefits will accrue over time and many years. Some people make the mistake of trying online networking for a few weeks and then giving up because they did not achieve any positive results. It takes time to build trust amongst other members especially the long serving ones who have seen many new people come and go.

I first tried my hand at online networking in June 2006 and quickly realised that normal rules of business do not apply. The best way to enjoy yourself on these types of platforms is to try and make friends. Business will come later... and rest assured it will come if you participate in the blogs and clubs.

Be enthusiastic and helpful, listen and join in the discussions but beware... do not let online networking take over from normal day to day business chores that still have to be carried out. It is far too easy to change networking to notworking!

Do you know any other platforms that allow businesses to advertise their wares? How has your experience been so far of business networking platforms? Have you got any tips for "newbies"?

Naz Daud is the Founder of the CityLocal Internet Business Franchise Opportunity.

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