One thing which amazes me, continually, is how people will blame a lack of networking success on other people and special circumstances.
In the words of Emeril LaGasse,
“This is not rocket science, folks.”
On an annual basis, business owners consider their ROI from various associations, networking groups and chambers of commerce.
These people have paid their dues, and perhaps more, but still don’t see a clear and definitive (measured in $$$) Return On Investment. This a big issue, but I’m only going to address a slice of it, in this post.
REALITY CHECK: Membership in any trade group or association gives you opportunity or access. You can leverage your membership by:
- Showing up to every meeting or almost every meeting.
- Making sensible donations: Those that benefit the organization AND showcase your company, effectively.
- Serving on a committee.
- Participating in a project.
- Serving on a Board of Directors.
Here is the trick. Connections do not magically occur during a 3-hour event, once a month. Each event and membership are simply the launching pad.
I know: “People are busy, companies are dealing with reduced staff, blah, blah, blah.”
They still have breakfast, lunch and dinner. The best way to leverage your organization membership is to get face-to-face with people. A solid 30-40 minutes before work, or at any mutually convenient time, is a solid way to develop a personal and business relationship.
If you call, and are told, “Gee, I’m busy until the second week of November,” that’s OK, make a coffee date for the Tuesday or Wednesday in November. Figure it out. Get on their agenda, at their convenience.
Your ‘coffee date’ should not be a selling situation. It should be a get-to-know-you-and-your-business meeting; a stepping stone other avenues for referrals and more.
Vendors often feel that Directors of Catering and other venue contacts condescend to them. The reality on this one is that they have their hands full just trying to meet their own sales numbers, and are often annoyed by what they perceive as business owners with their hands out, and nothing more.
This is a complex discussion, but suffice to say, if you use the coffee-connection to help determine how you can make your catering/venue/planner’s life easier, you are far more likely to have success in building a referral relationship.
Here is your assignment:
- Make a list of the top 25 people you would like to do business with (Start with professionals with whom you have common ground, through membership in an association or networking group).
- Planning through January 2012, schedule at least one coffee connection meeting a week.
- Research in advance: Use Facebook or LinkedIn to survey the person’s interests, work history, education background, etc., and use it softly in discussion.
- Figure out your follow-up: Take notes on anything you promised to do or look into, during that meeting, and get it done.
- Acknowledge: With a quickie handwritten note. That trumps an email or anything else, six-ways-to-Sunday.
Being on a referral list is overrated. You want to be top of mind, and on people’s lips, when they talk with clients and peers.
If you are just paying your dues, you are likely under-achieving.
Please share your own strategies that work, and post about your coffee connections.
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog