I haven't been to any networking events recently for one reason or another, but this week I'll be going to two and James will be attending another two. It must be the time of year.
I was amused at an event during the spring when a veteran networker stood up and announced, while firmly looking in my direction, that his business does no marketing and relies 100% on referrals. Having given his spiel he worked the room handing out lots of business cards. His morning included a networking presentation, business cards given, business cards taken and all useful contacts were probably followed up by email and logged in a database. That was probably more marketing done in a morning than many businesses do in a year.
This man is an interesting case study: he has considered his target market of local businesses; educated his network (us) about his business; positioned his business as successful and popular (so much so, remember, that it does no marketing but gets plenty of business from referrals); and found a low cost form of marketing that brings in sufficient enquiries to meet his one-man-band capacity. He works very hard at his marketing (I mean networking) and I imagine this commitment pays off.
It would be rare for us to recommend to a client that they put all their marketing eggs in one basket in that way. We prefer clients to undertake a number of different marketing activities, backed up by suitable information (online and offline), and evaluate the results. If, however, your business is restricted by lack of available time or budget for a broad range of marketing activities, and you have made a decision to concentrate on one form of marketing, it is essential to commit to it and do it well.
There are numerous guides to using networking in your marketing and they all recommend preparation. My extra word of advice is first to review the basics: your business offering; your target market; your key messages. Then consider who will be in the room with you, and how much all this will make sense to them. After you've presented who you are, what you do, and who you do it for remember to be clear what it is you'd like the assembled networkers to do for you - buy from you themselves or refer suitable customers to you?
I hoped I had been doing all this for Henmore and thebestof sites we manage in Derbyshire, but I've realised I've been makimg a hash of it. Chatting to someone who knows me quite well, I was asked a simple question the answer to which I address every month in my networking presentation. This is disheartening feedback, but I'll endeavour to take it positively and review my presentations for my networking week ahead.