I am taking a detour from my usual rants and raves about social media marketing and stepping up to the plate to write about networking face to face.
For over a year now I admit I have been attending various different networking events in my area and while I have gotten business from these events, I also realize that in many cases they are a waste of my time and they get expensive. There is always a meal of some sort involved and usually food that isn’t good for you. I picture all of us in 10 years as overweight people barely able to fit in a restaurant booth saying “Eh? What did he just say?”
I know some people are going to stop reading my article right here thinking I am one of “those” anti-networking people. I am not. I just had to set boundaries and stop thinking and believing that if I went to all these things I was running with the big dogs.
My husband would willingly go along for one or two meetings and then he would remind me that I am seeing the same old/same old people everywhere I go and gaining weight along the way. 🙂
About a month ago I attended a wonderful seminar by a group of hometown guys (Chicago) who are very successful at what they do. They still market the “old” way. Yes they use social media, but they also send handwritten notes, they do pop-in visits (we called these cold calls in the day) and they only attend networking meetings in their niche market.
In other words if they were in landscaping they might attend meetings they find advertised about yard care. If they are in real estate, they might attend a short-sale seminar. If they are in car repair they might be giving a seminar on how to make your vehicle last longer especially in this economy.
I belong to my local Chamber of Commerce. Now that is where networking really got started. If anyone knows how to do it right, they do. The membership you can reach is more than you will ever reach sitting in a restaurant. I chose to belong because this is where my own business will grow. But I know I cannot stop there. I cannot think locally with what I do and expect to survive. I have to think statewide next, then nationally.
I do believe that there are good networking meetings. In fact I believe there are great networking meetings. The great ones know how to run meetings that motivate people. They bring in people with the skills to do that. They help people develop skills they might be missing. They teach leadership. When you leave a meeting like this you are inspired, you are not leaving asking yourself “why did I eat that?”
In all my years of sales and marketing training I know you have to press the flesh. I know you have to meet people one on one. I know you have to make some cold calls. I know you are not going to be successful seeing the same people over and over with no results. That is a play on the definition of insanity.
I left that seminar several weeks ago with a reminder that the old ways still work and that using a mixture of what is popular today, sprinkled in with setting a goal of talking to so many people you don’t know, will equal success eventually. People say no 7 times before they will say yes.
The next time you walk into that networking meeting I want you to take inventory of who is there. Count up the businesses and then ask yourself how many of these people are really going to buy from you or refer to you. What are the chances they will? Now, ask yourself how are you going to meet the thousands of people not at those meetings?
The bottom line question to ask yourself is this; what is my ROI (return on investment)? You have your time spent, the gasoline to get there, the food you eat – add this all up. Now figure out how much business you have gotten that has given you cash in your pocket. If the cash in your pocket is more than what you spent, keep doing what you are doing. If it is not, it may be time to think of a new plan because you are throwing money and other opportunities away.
If you want to run with the big dogs, try being the only dog out there for a while and when people start to sniff out your success you will be the leader of the pack.