OK, all of you wallflowers listen up! You are the owner of your business, the ruler of your dominion, the big cheese (you get the idea), but how are people finding out about you? Are you relying on that ad you placed in the local paper or magazine? The cable TV spot? They may work for you, but would you consider another method that will get your name out there and will only cost you a little bit of your time and a few bucks? Here’s the way to do it: Networking!
This past Tuesday night I attended an after-hours networking event sponsored by the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. The admission price was nominal, and food and drink were included in the price. A night out at a great price! Beyond that, I was in a room with approximately 150 prospects! What could be better than that? Well, these events are held monthly. Therefore, the potential to be in front of approximately 1,500 new prospects over the course of a year for virtually no money is certainly an investment I’m willing to make.
For all of you who feel that these types of events aren’t for you, or you’re not that kind of a person (you know, the kind that can easily strike up a conversation with a stranger at a crowded bar), I beg to differ and would tell you that you’re wrong. In my opinion, the best way to get started with these types of networking events is to attend a Chamber event. Why? Because there are always people, either Chamber employees or volunteers, that will help ingratiate you into the crowd, if needed. Sure, you’ll find people there that have known each other for years. But, you’ll also find others like you: the newbies. Seek them out!
The rules of engagement are easy, and this is where I take the work out of networking. You enter the room and make your way to the bar to get your first drink. You may need more, but start slowly. Look to the left, look to the right. Catch the eye of someone else at the bar and introduce yourself, ask the person what he/she does for a living, and then ask for one of his/her business cards. Done! Congratulations, you’ve just completed a networking experience! Now, go do that again, and again, and again. You get the picture. At the end of the night, you could have a large number of new contacts in various industries. Even better, for every card that you have, you have also passed out an equal number of business cards. In my case, I also asked if I could add that person to our e-mail newsletter list, and I got 13 new prospects that we can continue contacting.
One of the best types of publicity that any person or organization can receive is word of mouth, and it doesn’t really matter from whose mouth it comes. As soon as you pass your business card to someone new at a networking event, the possibility of your name and company being spread through that person’s network of contacts just became a reality. How? Well, after chatting with that new contact, he/she moves on to talk with someone else. In that discussion, another person may ask the person with whom they’re speaking if they know of anyone that does what you do. Your name may be the next words uttered in that conversation: word of mouth.
Get out there and make your presence known. It may not be easy at first, but it will get easier every time that you attend a networking event. For all of you networking pros that haven’t been out to an event lately, don’t you think it’s time for you to get word of mouth publicity working for you?