As any good marketing consultant will tell you, it’s important to spend time networking online. There is a rich pool of potential prospects on networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, About.me and beBee. You can connect with new business partners from all over the world.
However, a good marketing consultant will also tell you to take advantage of in-person networking opportunities. Even small cities will have their own BNI chapter and a local Chamber of Commerce. There are also Federation of Small Business chapters and various independently run networking events – such as the Six O’clock Club, which has a monthly get together for local businesses.
Networking is Bringing People and Businesses Together
These organizations exist to help small-to-medium-sized business (SMB) owners connect with other SMBs. When one business owner is not in the market for any of the services offered, they may well know someone who is.
So far, not so different from reaching out to online prospects. Why take the time to network in person? A lot of people become glued to the comfort of the circles they have built online, which is a shame because discovering a different, local community is refreshing. These people live in the same area, are also working for themselves, and wouldn’t be attending if they weren’t interested in making new connections.
Network in Person to Build up Your Own Service Offering
The benefits go beyond business transactions. Working local creates a sense of place and gives a satisfying, personal connection. It’s easier to test ideas and look for those oblique connections that have the potential to open new markets when meeting new people in real life. Connecting with businesses that are a bit different may mean you can offer additional services to your clients.
Prospecting online involves crunching thousands of possible connections. Time spent making local connections will often be more fruitful. At a BNI, Chamber of Commerce, or FSB networking event, the whole point is connecting. You don’t need to wonder whether your email was routed to a spam folder.
Come Prepared and Wearing Your Game Face
Pitching someone as soon as you’ve shaken hands can be off-putting, but you should come prepared. Business cards and professional attire are important. Behaving in a professional manner is essential. That means staying sober and keeping your humor clean.
These events will grow your business. Even if you don’t meet a huge number of directly relevant prospects on the night, you will start getting referrals. Everyone will know someone who can use your services at some point.
Convert Offline Contacts to Online Connections
Add everyone to your web-based professional networks afterwards. That way, you can continue the conversation online even if you don’t meet again in person.
Get started if you’d like help preparing for on-the-ground networking today!