Attending networking events can be a great way to generate awareness for your business and meet new prospective customers who might one day buy from you. But check out sites like EventBrite for upcoming networking events in your area and you’ll quickly see that there’s no shortage of opportunity, and that networking events come in many different shapes and sizes. Here are some thoughts for whether networking events are right for your business and tips for making how you can find success if they are.
Not All Networking Events Are Created Equal
I attended a one-off networking event last week and got into a conversation with another attendee about whether networking events were effective. I offered that networking events held on a regular basis were most effective as they provided an opportunity to see and build rapport with the same people. The other person offered that events held more frequently than once a month were too much.
I have the perspective of different types of networking events: I’m a member of a networking group that meets weekly, I attend the Mississauga Board of Trade’s monthly networking meetings, and I occasionally hit up one-time networking events. Without question, my weekly networking group is the most lucrative.
Stripped down to its core, we go to networking events to sell more products and services in our businesses. Unless you have a very short sales cycle and a widely needed product, you’re unlikely to sell to someone the first time you meet them.
Regularly scheduled networking events give you the chance to build relationships and rapport with people that are essential to turn them into customers, or even better, referral partners.
Chance Favours the Prepared Mind
Attending networking events can be effective. Having a game plan at those events can be even more effective.
If the attendee list is available prior to the event, scan through the list for people you know or people you might want to know. Prior to the event, reach out to people you know and let them know that you’ll be at the event and are hopeful of connecting. Identify people that may have a need for your product or service and try to connect with them at the event.
Also, prior to the event learn about the venue. Hotel conference rooms are popular for networking events and there’s usually an on-premise restaurant. If you meet someone of particular interest at the event, knowing that there’s a nearby restaurant might give you an opportunity to grab a coffee after the event to continue a good conversation started during the event.
80% of Sales Are Made on the 5th Through 12th Contact
Sales statistics suggest that most purchases aren’t made on first contact with a brand, but that multiple touch points are required. The generally accepted number of touch points is five to twelve, but this varies depending on the nature of the business and product or service.
What is your strategy for hitting those touch points?
In advance of the event, plan out what your immediate post-event touch points are and allocate time in your schedule to make them. The most common first follow-up is an email, so have an outline of that email drafted before the event so you can quickly personalize them and send them out shortly after the event.
Think about what your initial follow-up strategy is and block time shortly after the event for initial follow-ups. Don’t do this in a relatively short period of time and you may as well not go to the event in the first place.
Are You Selling or Building a Network?
I attended a networking seminar a few years ago and the presenter asked the audience to put up their hand if they were interested in selling something to someone at the event. Most of the audience put up their hands. The presenter then asked the audience to put up their hand if they were interested in buying something from someone at the event. Predictably, only a couple of hands went up. We all chuckled when the presenter pointed at those few hands as the fresh meat we were all to try and feast on!
The point is that people don’t go to networking events looking to buy something. And if we’re all there to sell, what’s the point?
Networking events offer a chance to build out your network with likeminded people. While I’d love to sell our marketing services to everyone, a more practical goal for me is to find and connect with complementary professionals interested in building a mutually beneficial referral partnership.
Our ideal buyer is a business owner or high-level manager, the same types of people that accountants, business coaches, lawyers and business consultants are trying to find. We can refer business to photographers, promotional products vendors and printers, so expanding our network with trusted execution partners can help us provide better value to our clients.
While I’d love to sell intentionally good marketing solutions wherever I go, I’m as interested in finding like minded professionals to strengthen my network and potentially refer business.
Intentionally Good Marketing in a Minute
Attending networking events can be an effective marketing platform to generate new leads within your local community. When you’re considering which events to go to, think about the right type of event for your business, be consistent in your effort, prepare for the event in advance and follow up immediately after, and decide whether you’re there to simply sell product or build your network.
Networking events can be part of an effective marketing strategy. Don’t have one of those? We can help! We can also help with a full range of marketing services to present your business as professional and credible as you create awareness and attract prospective customers to your business. Call us and let’s have a quick chat to find out if we can help!