Networking events and trade-days offer a fantastic opportunity to meet and connect with potential new leads. It helps to put a ‘face’ to your business and can build your offline brand personality. But how do you make sure that you’re getting the most out of the networking events you attend?
1. Choose your event wisely
Your time is precious. While it might seem like a good idea to attend as many networking events as possible, you’ll end up with a huge stack of business cards and no time to effectively follow up. And don’t forget what all those canapes and wine will do to your waistline! Be selective with your time and choose the events that will benefit you the most. Whether you are looking to learn a new skill, network with like-minded individuals or display your products at a trade show, two events per month is probably enough. You’ll make better connections, save your time and your waistline.
2. Understand your goal
It’s extremely rare to close a business deal at a networking event. At best, your goal should be to meet people that you can start to form a relationship with that one day might generate business for you. Ivan Misner hit the nail on the head when he said “Networking isn’t about closing business deals or meeting hordes of new people; it’s about developing relationships in which future business can be closed”. This is an important distinction to remember and will help you differentiate yourself when meeting new people.
3. Be prepared with your talking logo
How many times have you been at an event and been asked “So, what do you do?” Our standard response is to offer our job title or industry. “I’m a plumber” or “I’m a marketing consultant” which doesn’t really offer the listener any way to engage. If you find yourself responding like this, you need a talking logo.
Your talking logo is a verbal tool that you can create which allows you to communicate the core benefit of doing business with you. It should be a short statement that engages the listener and makes them want to know more. So instead of saying “I’m a marketing consultant”, I could say “I help small businesses make sense of their marketing”. Now, more often than not, the listener will engage with a follow up question such as “How do you do that?” You could then respond with something like “I implement a simple, effective and affordable system that takes the guess work out of marketing”.
Give it a go at your next event and see what kind of response you get!
4. Create a great giveaway
If you’re exhibiting, always make sure to have a prize giveaway so visitors will leave their cards in a bowl. But wherever possible, try to make the prize specific to your business. Everyone loves a good bottle of red but you’ll receive better quality leads if you give away some of your products or services.
5. Nail the follow up
Be sure to follow up within 2 days of the event.
I like to segment the contacts into 3 groups. The first group are cool leads; those that probably aren’t a good fit for my business. Just because they might not buy from you, doesn’t mean they won’t refer a friend. Send them a brief, personalised email letting them know it was lovely to meet them and you wish them all the best in their business.
The second group are warm leads; those that you met only briefly or didn’t really get to talk to. I like to send an email to this group that includes a ‘soft sell’ lead generation tactic. This might be an e-book or a link to my latest blog. Use email marketing automation software like Hubspot, Agile CRM or Active Campaign to track opens and click-throughs and follow up with a phone call to anyone that takes action.
The third group are your hot leads. This group are people you met who showed definite interest in your product or service. I will usually phone each of these leads to arrange a time to meet, or follow up with a very personal email detailing some of the key discussion points from the event, along with a special offer ‘just for them’.
By focusing your follow up in this way, you’ll make the most of the event and stay proactive.