Business professionals, managers, marketers and small business owners are busy people, with a goal to implement marketing and advertising campaigns and efforts with the best return on investment (ROI). Networking is a great opportunity to promote your business, create brand awareness and build powerful relationships with other businesses and professionals in your local community. That said, networking can be a challenge if not done strategically.
Networking events can be perceived as daunting and overwhelming; even distracting, taking you away from the office, keeping you from completing daily tasks and to-dos that keep your company running. Although they can seem that way without a plan or strategy, networking events have immense sales potential. They also offer opportunities to connect with powerful influencers in the business community that can help you grow your business. With the right planning, EXHIB-IT! will show you how to get the best ROI by creating a successful networking strategy to empower your brand and build relationships that help save and make your business money.
- Set SMART Networking Goals for Each Event.Before scheduling your networking events, ask yourself what you hope to get out of networking and set some SMART Goals.
- SMART GOALS
- Specific – Goals must be clear and unambiguous.
- Who, What, When, Where, Why, How?
- Measurable – What does success look like? Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of each goal.
- How will you know when you’re done?
- Attainable – Goals are neither out of reach nor set too low, otherwise they become meaningless. Should not be easily completed without applying yourself.
- Is the goal realistic?
- “If you think you can do it, you are right. If you think you cannot, you are tight too.” – Henry Ford
- Relevant – Does this contribute to either top line growth or bottom line profit? What is the benefit to the company?
- How does this fit into your schedule and strategy now?
- Time Based – Goals must have starting points, ending points and fixed durations.
- When will you achieve your goal?
- What’s your deadline?
- “Goals are dreams with deadlines.” – FDR
- Specific – Goals must be clear and unambiguous.
- Strategically Select & Schedule Your Events – Be Picky.Once you have goals set, start searching for events to attend that are relevant to those goals and your company or industry. Find out who will be at the events, what types of business professionals and from what types of industries.
- What are the demographics of attendees?
- Are they from a state or location that is important for your company to connect with?
- What level of authority do they hold in the company and will building a relationship with them help you meet your goals?
- Is the event location economical and convenient, or at least worth your time for travel?
- How many people will be in attendance? – Smaller events are great to attend if the right people are going to be there (or people you haven’t’ met).
- How much does the event cost? – You should have a Networking and Event Marketing budget set up to fall in line with your goals so that your investment of time (salary) and money (fees, transportation, lodging, and meals) don’t outweigh your return.
- Arrive On Time, Communicate and Circulate.Arriving on time to a networking event can be a helpful strategy. Being on time gives you an opportunity to scope out the event surroundings, get settled in with a beverage, have a snack, and start networking in a more relaxed environment with other early birds.Communicate effectively and listen carefully with fellow attendees. A great way to communicate effectively with someone new is to be an active listener. An active listener pays close attention to detail and asks relevant questions to keep the conversation going. Don’t just bombard people with information about what you do. Communicate, listen and get to know each other to work on building strategic business relationships. The more you listen to others and ask questions, the longer the conversation will last. The longer the conversation lasts the more information you will have about others to better qualify them as a potential lead, a referral partner, or as a strategic partner.
Circulate the event, make some rounds and meet as many people as possible without being rushed or abruptly ending conversations. It’s important to have meaningful conversations with others. It is also important to know when to politely end the conversation and move on to the next one. Better yet, introduce others to one another and become the 1° networking guru. Help others make connections and relationship build and they will think of you as a powerful resource and ally.
- Bring Business Cards, Marketing Materials & Door Prizes.Never attend a networking event, trade show or seminar without business cards. Give attendees a way to add you to their contacts and follow up with you. Business cards add a professional touch and create brand awareness. Marketing materials and door prizes are also helpful to ensure that you are memorable and well branded. If you have a special discount or event to promote, be sure to arrive with printed marketing materials to hand out along with your business card. Certain networking events will have drawings for door prizes. Be sure to bring one and get your message and company name mentioned during the drawing for even more visibility. Repetition is key, so meet as many people as possible, and get your company mentioned and featured (become an event sponsor), and hand out marketing materials that have your contact info.
- Grow a Relationship Database & Follow-up – Customer Relationship Management (CRM).Just because the event has ended, doesn’t mean the networking ends. Keep the conversations going long after the event. Utilize those new resources and put them to work. Create a relationship management database and schedule regular follow-ups. Send an email after the event is over to let them know how nice it was to meet them and get to know them or even better, send a hand written nice meeting you card! If there is synergy, schedule a meeting to see if there is potential to do business together. Once that initial email is sent, schedule future follow-ups to keep in touch and always communicate in the other person’s style and method. (i.e., email, phone call, social media, text, etc.)
Networking is a powerful tool to add to your marketing tool box. There are endless potentials for making new leads, generating sales, creating strategic partnerships and developing powerful relationships when you network strategically. Use our 5 Tips for Creating a Successful Networking Strategy to get the best return on your investment and even better, the best return on relationships!
For additional resources regarding networking events, check out the links below: