When I first started my business I didn’t have an advertising budget so I marketed my business by attending networking events, meet-up groups, and I met everyone and their brother for coffee. Quite frankly it was an enormous waste of time, but over the years I’ve learned how to use it effectively. Networking can be a fantastic lead source if it’s done right.
Here are my tips to make networking profitable:
- Hunt Where the Ducks Are
Networking can be a very powerful tool if you’re with the right people. For example, if you want to work with health care providers, then you need to find out what kind of events they attend and organizations they belong to. In other words, put yourself when your potential customers are.
- Don’t Go to Big Social Networking Events
Most business leaders think it’s smart to be at events where there are lots of people because it increases your chances of making a good connection or getting a sale. It’s logical, but in reality people who own or lead businesses don’t attend large scale networking events, sales people do. Most networking events are full of sales people and not decision makers. They aren’t the people who can make the decision to use your product or service. Instead, find where the decision makers are that you want to meet and attend the events they go to.
- Meeting for Coffee Isn’t Smart Networking
Several times a month someone will call or email me and say “let’s meet for coffee and see how we can help each other.” That’s typically code for “let’s meet because I want to sell you something.” Be very strategic in who you spend your time with. Only meet with people who could be potential clients or a potential lead source.
- Have a Plan to Follow Up
After meeting people at an event, follow up with a personal note or email and tell them that you enjoyed meeting them and want to stay in touch. Connect with them on LinkedIn as another touch point. (Of course you should be active on LinkedIn, but that’s for another blog post!!) Of course you will also want to add them to your email database so that you can nurture the relationship via your email marketing.
About the author: Meg Huwar is a small business marketing expert and Principal of Brand Accelerator. She and her team work with companies who want to market their business but don’t have the time, experience or staff to do it themselves. Meg can be reached at email@example.com.