Against my better judgment I’m going to let you all in on a little secret: Not all business is done online. Whaaaat? Yeah, I know. Even though it pains me to admit that and even though my livelihood is based around everything online, it’s true. If you stop and look around for a minute it’s easy to see that today’s society is less about person to person interaction and more about taking a picture of that person and putting it on Instagram and having them Tweet about it or you post that picture to Facebook or pin it to Pinterest or whatever the hell else you are going to do with it. Believe it or not, every now and then you have to actually talk to someone in the real world and get business done with a little networking and a handshake.
So how do you get in front of the right person to make that eventual handshake possible? Do you just walk in to your target business ask for the boss and make your pitch? I think if you’ve ever cold-called a day in your life you already know the answer to that question is a resounding no. Business is all about the “who you know not what you know” right? We’ve heard that a thousand times over, mainly because it’s true. Getting in front of the right person isn’t an accident it’s a process. A great start to that process is networking. Now I know what you’re thinking about how everyone you run into is always touting networking: “Network here. Network over here. Come to this event or this social. Put your business card in 500 hands!” Now I know those can be helpful, but for the most part you’re just cold-calling again, except this time it’s cold-calling connections rather than businesses.
Instead of using the “throw enough shit against the wall and hope some sticks” approach, why not do to your networking what you do to business calls and target them. Join a networking group. In a networking group you have the opportunity see the same faces over and over again and get to know them on a personal level. It’s no more meet and greet and hope and wait. It’s building relationships and educating those people on all the aspects of your company so they can help put you in front of the right people. Think about it like this, would you put your name and reputation on the line by referring someone you met once at a happy hour event? Or would you be more willing to make an introduction for someone you see every week and hear about his or her quality of work and that you’ve come to know and trust? At the end of the day we do business with people we know and like and trust and it’s difficult to build that type of relationship over a cattle call of business cards.
Choosing the right networking group is key. Go with something reputable, well organized and convenient for you. Find a group that doesn’t allow everyone in. If you are an electrician and any electrician can come to every meeting, how does that benefit you? That’s just a cattle call under a different name. Visit a prospective group before joining and ask around about it. If there is something off about the group it won’t be a secret. Now I’m not here to sell you on our networking group. We joined BNI over 2 years ago because it was the right fit for us and our business is now represented in 3 different chapters along the Grand Strand because we believe in it and it works for us. We’ve built solid business relationships that allow us to ask the other members for an introduction to any XYZ company they may know and they will do so because they’ve come to learn that I will represent them well. And on the other side of that coin, when one of my clients is in need of a service I can recommend someone that I know will take care of them and look like a hero.
Networking does work, but targeted networking works better. You are building a network of resources and salesman all around you when you belong to a networking group. Human interaction isn’t completely dead in this world and people want to deal with other people they like, know and trust. Networking groups help bridge that gap. But, for the times you can’t look someone in the eye, well for help with that marketing we hope you’ve come to know and trust us at Three Ring Focus…It’s just too bad someone in my networking group isn’t a professional writer and could have prevented me from using such a corny ending!