Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Networking Strategies I've Employed to Promote My Business

On Tuesday evening I attended a networking meeting hosted by Business to Business Networking Specialists. More than 20 people attended the meeting, and most of them were small business owners in my area. The format was:
  • Introducing BTB to us newbies - General presentation of what the association is about. BTW, participation is free, and they make their money through their marketing initiatives.
  • How their marketing/promotion plan works - R100 per month to be listed in the database and R50 per month to be showcased in their PowerPoint presentation shown at all their meetings. They also offer a service to distribute pamphlets in the surrounding suburbs for a very low amount. 
  • Short presentation /pitch by all members – everyone got the chance to stand up and introduce themselves and their business. 
  • Distribution of marketing material – Participants are also asked to bring brochures and business cards, which they can leave on the table for other business owners to pick up.
Check out BTB's web site.

Here are some of the strategies I used to market myself and my business at the networking meeting:
  • Approach the meeting as a way to make friends instead of a way to push your business agenda – I know some people believe in meeting as many people as possible and handing out as many business cards as possible. That kind of approach doesn’t work for me. I’d rather spend time chatting with five people out a group of 25 and get to know them. That way, when I get home, I’ll still be able to link specific conversations to specific people. People like knowing that you remember them; that you listened while they spoke to you. 
  • Grab opportunities when they are presented to you. I met someone who has a current and pressing need for a web site and social networking tools. We’re going to meet as soon as possible to discuss his needs, so I can get started on his project.  
  • Make friends even if there is no obvious gain to be had – I spent a lot of time chatting to a very interesting woman who just launched a water purification plant and is now selling water, juices etc. She sounded so knowledgeable about water that it occurred to me that I might want to write about it. I’m definitely planning to keep in touch with her. 
  • Give people a taste of what you offer – Offer expert advice if warranted, to give the people you interact with a hint of what you have to offer. In my case, I can offer marketing and communication insight and one of the people at the meeting has important an IT gadget which I thought a journo friend might want to review. So contacted the friend and hooked them up. Now it’s up to them to make sure the intro works for them. 
  • Support a good cause – Some of the people attending the meeting were there to generate support for their causes, not to sell their products and services. If one of the causes resonates with you, volunteer your expertise. Supporting a good cause that is endorsed by such an association is a good way to get to know some of the people and for them to get to know you, to enable you to do business. I did make sure that the parameters of what I offer were clear though, so that I don’t end up over-committed. 
  • Solidify contact with your new business associates as soon as possible. – I emailed all the people I exchanged cards with as soon as I got home, sending them my business profile, referencing to where and how we met and reminding them what services we spoke about. This ensures that the new opportunity does not slide away due to neglect.

So now my part of the networking process is done and the people I interacted with have the information they need to decide if they want to establish some kind of relationship with me.

Thank you Gaynor and Dr Ivan Jardine for the invitation. Much appreciated.


Ecoecho said...

Very interesting post Damaria.

There are a number of such networking organisations down here in the Cape, but you mostly have to pay to attend.

One that I attended, before it was disbanded, was free, but I found the people who went along were mostly there to try and sell their services and products to you. Your advice about that not working for you applies to me too. I would much rather go to a networking event and meet and talk to people and form possible relationships. As you say, you can at least link a conversation to a brochure or calling card and a face. It is more meaningful than a bag full of cards of people you did not even speak to.

Making contact with these people straight away to reinforce your meeting is a must too. Otherwise the whole exercise is a waste.

Pamela said...

Your step-by-step guidance on how to maximize the potential of the networking session as well as how you cemented those relationships after the networking session are invaluable for those of us who are newbies in the matter of marketing ourselves and our businesses. Thank you so much, Damaria, for this post.

Damaria Senne said...

@Corinna - some of paid networking organisations I've come across are somewhat beyond my price range. And the one I was willing the cash for requires that you attend weekly meetings. You can only miss 3 a year, and I didn't think I could meet that requirement. But they're very good.

Damaria Senne said...

@pam- my pleasure.

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