How to Build Business Networks

Photo, Priscilla Du Preez.


How to Build Business Networks

In a complex field of sales navigation, B2B is as important as ever. Learn today how to build business networks for optimum success...

A growing business is more than just expanding on sales or increasing market share. More businesses, as well as local economies, are learning the importance of primary as well as secondary sustainability. This extends to understanding how you provide your goods and services to your end-users or primary customers. But the business environment also has to take into account how to sell between businesses also. We need to understand how to build business networks.

In that exciting and complex field of sales navigation, we look today to the world of business-to-business marketing or B2B. Indeed, some service providers and even retailers have discovered that creating business links between businesses where the end-user isn’t necessarily a retail-based consumer and then using those connections to further the reach of your companies marketing plan, can yield unexpected and lucrative results.

In this post, we’re going to discover a little more about what that means to you as a business that supplies other businesses. And how, with some creative, intelligence-based marketing, you could increase your reach and market share by creating a whole new network within an existing framework. Let’s dive in…

How to Build Business Networks

Photo, Melanie Deziel.

What We Mean by Business to Business Marketing

B2B marketing typically refers to a marketing strategy that is primarily geared towards a business or an organisation. A company that sells its goods or services to other businesses or organisations.

A great example of a B2B company is General Electric or ‘GE’.

The New York-based conglomerate offers a bouquet of services and products. They include financing, lighting, aviation, healthcare, renewable energy and they also operate within the digital industry. While you as an individual consumer would not typically have a significant amount of contact with GE (aside perhaps in financing or credit), you are probably, and perhaps without even knowing about it, a recipient of some of their products or services.

In other words, you use electricity that might have come from one of their renewable projects, but you didn’t necessarily purchase your electricity directly from them. Rather you bought it from your local energy supplier instead. Who in turn acquired it from GE.

But you can also think a lot smaller and in more simple terms. Think about a local stationery supplier that supplies companies directly. As opposed to operating a retail space where the general public can walk in and buy a stapler.

How to Build Business Networks

Photo, Redd.

Creating or Accessing Business Networks

When looking at how to build business networks, there are many examples of existing business networks. Ones that you as an operator can join or conduct business in. Ones that will give you access to an already established ‘pool’ of opportunity. University alumni will organise themselves in such a way as to create a network of entrepreneurs or businesses with the express purpose of providing or creating a system of access to help each other navigate the business world.

But, there is nothing that can stop you from establishing a local business network of your own. Organisations like BNI (Business Networks International) have been hugely successful in creating local business referral schemes and networks. And they have done so in dozens of countries worldwide.

Their model works by setting up chapters in communities where there is sufficient demand for business. Then hosting weekly or bi-weekly meetings for their members. They meet to share ideas, referrals, create opportunities, and marketing events.

Now, nothing is stopping you from creating a similar model in your local community. Especially if the community you mean to serve has specialist industries attached to it. Such as fisheries, manufacturing, or information technology to name a few.

How to Build Business Networks

Photo, Chuttersnap.

Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Marketplaces

Once you’ve gotten to grips with understanding how different marketplaces work, you’ll be in a better position to understand where they interlock and how you can exploit those hidden opportunities.

So let’s take a minute to understand what these different marketplaces mean. And how we define them.

Primary Marketplaces

The primary marketplace, as the name suggests, is where you ordinarily conduct your business. In the B2B context, this means the company that your company supplies with goods or services.

Sidebar: learning how these markets operate and where they interlace and then capitalising on that, is also a great way to create brand loyalty.

Secondary Marketplaces

The secondary marketplace is a market that you may or may not currently know about or if you do, conduct limited business with. Let’s use the stationery supplier as an example. Your primary marketplace would be the company that you supply stationery to, in the first instance.

So let’s assume it’s a company that offers solutions in information technology. In other words, the stationery that they buy from you is not for resale. However, the company that they supplier IT services to also needs stationery, right?

Tertiary Marketplaces

Finally, the tertiary marketplace is the market that your primary customers, customer services. In easier terms:

You supply company ‘A’ with stationery. They supply company ‘B’ with IT solutions. However, you also supply company ‘B’ with stationery. Company ‘B’ supplies sports equipment to local schools and universities (company ‘C’), which is an additional revenue stream that you could be exploiting.

Bring it all together is a key component in how to build business networks. You ideally want to create the kind of network where all of this information is shared between operators within this specific local economy. That way money tends to circulate within networks and keeps the local economy robust.

You can read more about all of this, in this hugely interesting article published by Western Illinois University, here.

How to Build Business Networks

Photo, Keren Levand.

Simplifying the Whole Process

It can be easy to get stuck in the details of how to build business networks. And, for that reason, you would probably want to attract the assistance of specialised B2B marketers like Alex Croucher.

These agencies and specialists have a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to understanding the intricacies of network marketing. And from being a tool that is exclusively available to corporates and multinationals, setting up local business networks is a lot less complicated than most people might think.

Important Considerations

While successfully establishing additional markets ‘within’ markets can be a very lucrative and successful pursuit, the temptation is to delve into highly complex fields of market anomalies and investments. But that’s not where you want to go as a local business.

Remember also, that local doesn’t have to mean ‘rural’ or ‘small’. You can create local networks in major metros that are specific to certain suburbs or boroughs. It all depends on who are players within that specific location and how you are able to knit them all together.

The greatest advantage to setting up your own network though is that you get to determine the voracity at which you recruit new members and how that information is shared. In the name of fairness and transparency, you’ll want more than one representative on the board. And ideally, you’ll want those people to have no direct links to you other than through business.

With that being said, there are some great examples of family-run businesses that have set up local networks. So, play to your strengths.

Keeping an Open Door, and an Open Mind

Photo, Cherrydeck.

Keeping an Open Door, and an Open Mind

It doesn’t mean that all business in your community must be done through and within this network. Not all companies are going to be suited for the way that your network operates. And they may not have an interest in sharing information with other businesses. Certainly, as laws change regarding data protection, you’ll need to wisen up to ensure you remain on the right side of the law.

So keeping an open mind when looking at how to build a business network is very important. But equally, keeping an open door. It will be a high-quality problem when you find yourself in the position of having to consider limiting the number of members that participate in your B2B network. So, count your blessings.

Overall, the business environment is always going to be challenging and exciting. But if it’s one thing we have learned the past couple of years it’s this: no man (or business) is an island and we’d all have weathered these trying economic times a lot better if we enjoyed greater integration within our business communities.