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Face-to-face networking: Still the best way to generate new business in Asia

T.C. Seow | March 15, 2012
Companies have more ways than ever before to reach out to customers – but research suggests good, old-fashioned networking still comes out on top.

Despite the availability of various electronic media, companies in Asia still find face-to-face networking as the best way to win new businesses. This was the conclusion from a market research conducted by Hong Kong-based Regus.

The research was unveiled as Regus announced the launch of BusinessLink, an online trading platform that allows hundreds of thousands of its customers worldwide to buy and sell products and services, and connect with other businesses using the Regus network.

A majority of Hong Kong companies (67%) believe face-to-face networking will remain the best way to find new customers over the next two to three years. But whereas Mainland Chinese companies recognise the growing importance of business social media in the new business mix (59%, up from 36% in the previous three years), more than half (54%) of Hong Kong businesses see online advertising as a better way to expand their market reach.

This multichannel approach to new business generation was revealed by research carried out for global workspace provider Regus in which over 16,000 senior business managers were surveyed around the world.

In Hong Kong, businesspeople believe that face-to-face networking will remain the most effective way to generate new business. However, six per cent fewer respondents think this will be true over the next two to three years compared to the last two to three years. This perhaps reflects a recognition by businesspeople that methods of generating business are evolving.

Professional social networking is one alternative method that is steadily growing in popularity - ever-increasing user numbers underline its perceived usefulness. An example of this is the popular professional networking portal LinkedIn, which now has more than 135 million members worldwide.

Singapore companies too show similar trends. Sixty-six percent feel that face-to-face networking is important, but also rank business social media such as LinkedIn as important ways to engage potential customers.

Companies in South Korea, which is Asia's leading broadband wired country, place even higher emphasis (68%) on face-to-face networking, while 63% feel business social media will enable them to better engage new prospects.

Other findings of the research were:

  • 51% of global respondents saw online advertising as one of the top ways to find new customers in the next three years, up from 42% in the previous three.
  • In Hong Kong, hiring well-connected sales people (36%), participating in trade exhibitions (38%) and public speaking at key events (32%) are also regarded as significant tools for future customer recruitment.
  • Globally, 71% of small businesses believe that face-to-face networking will be key to recruiting customers over the next three years, compared to only 61% of large businesses.
  • Traditional advertising, direct marketing and telemarketing only gain a minority vote, and all are in decline.



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