One of my friends through my publisher Financial Times Prentice Hall is Heather Townsend, the author of the newly released Financial Times Guide to Business Networking.

Networking is often one of the first strategies I’ll recommend to a client looking for more work.  It is especially effective for smaller businesses and startups because it allows you to build personal connections with people who then feel more comfortable to place work with you.

However, it’s also a very effective strategy for many professional services firms like accountants, solicitors and so on, because the level of trust built through relationships makes it easy for people to approach them.

Over the past 10 years, times have changed and people are now networking online through sites such as Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter and many more besides.  There has never been an easier time to make and maintain effective relationships thanks to the technologies of the Internet.

But this brings with it a whole new set of challenges.  How do you integrate social networking into your marketing?  Should you even bother?  And what’s the right balance of time to devote to networking in order to get a sensible return on investment?

Heather stands firmly on the side that says that networking is the key to building your business.  This is probably the topic on which we differ – networking is a great strategy, I have no doubt.  But it’s not the only way to generate more leads and sales.

Like most things, you need to find business development strategies that suit your personality and the skills of your team.  A great example of this comes from one of my past clients, The Mortgage Broker Limited.

Financial services firms typically get most of their leads from networking, yet The Mortgage Broker Limited grew from 25-30 mortgages per month with networking as their main lead source to a peak of 225 mortgages using Internet marketing.

What I Love About The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking

However, if you are going to use networking as one of your cornerstone strategies, it pays to have a clear strategy to organise yourself to get the most benefit from it.

There is no point spending hours on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn every day if you don’t get a corresponding amount of business in return.  This is where Heather’s book comes in.  She is a veteran user of social media for business and generates all of her own business through networking, both online and offline.

There’s also another angle to networking – in the much-quoted Think & Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill covers what he calls your mastermind.  This has often been taken to mean a formalised master mind group.

However, read the book carefully and you’ll see that Hill really means to build relationships with people who can help you, and who you can help in return.

That’s perhaps the strongest reason to recommend this book.  Heather understands how to build a single unified network that seamlessly operates across the online and offline worlds.  If you want to do the same, The Financial Times Guide To Business Networking will prove a valuable addition to your armoury.

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