Before Facebook, before Twitter, before LinkedIn, and even before MySpace, there was social networking. It involved making connections and then connections through those connections. There wasn’t a limit of how many characters you could use, but you usually had only a small about of time to make an impression.
These social networks still exist today. They are in the form of networking events/groups, golf outing, ski outings and other business events. If you ask anyone in this business what the best form of marketing is, they’ll be sure to tell you, ‘Word of Mouth.’ If you’re doing good work, you’re probably already getting business from it. Yet, it never hurts to be planting seeds for tomorrow.
Friday, I took the day off of work to ski with a business group (or as I called it—the golf outing of winter). It is hard for me to take a day off of work—never wanting to be too far away from the office in case of all the ‘what-ifs.’ But I did it.
The event was comprised of a smaller group of business owners and executives, and I only knew a few of them. I went out alone in the morning, and on the third run I was chatting with the guy next to me on the lift on the way up and I found out that he was part of the group. Not only did he end up being a far superior skier (and I’m not too shabby myself), but he ended up being a great contact. Later in the afternoon I met a commercial lender who had plenty of business to send my way… if I could beat him down the hill. (I did!) At the bar at the end of the day, I was given a business lead to wire a house and some more potential projects. I ended up with many more leads than if I had stayed in the office. And I just happened to have a great day doing it.
Get yourself out there! It is so easy for us to hide behind our computers and attempt to conquer the world, but face time is a necessity. Here are some of my handy tips for the next time you’re out there.
Have a Quick Tag Line: You may only get a few seconds with a potential client. Have a ‘canned’ answer to, “What do you do?” It should be short and sweet. I would say only a few sentences at the most. I also like to have a few projects at the tip of my tongue that they would have heard of to show ‘credential.’
Be Human: No one wants to hear a sales pitch, and the moment you come across that way, the person on the receiving end is likely to shut down. Don’t try to be someone else. Be human. Let the conversation flow, don’t push you message.
Ask Open-ended Questions: Similar to the sales floor, by asking open-ended questions, you start a conversation. “Hey Bob, what is it you do anyway?” vs. “Are you a banker?” A yes or no question can end the conversation. An open-ended question can begin an entire relationship.
Listen: I know this seems obvious, but it isn’t always. (Frankly, when I get excited about a tech topic, I can forget to shut my mouth and listen). Allowing the other person to finish their sentence makes them feel valued. You never know what you might learn.
Involve Your Team: What do your employees say about your company when they’re asked? This is grass roots, but very important. Are they excited about the prospects for future or frustrated by the latest schedule? You don’t know where your next great client may come from. Make sure that your employee network is a positive one.
Remember that although nobody wants to be hounded, most people like attention. In this day and age where many of us spend lots of time in front of the computer or glued to our mobile devices, it is easy to forget the value of good ol’ fashioned conversation. Get out there at least once a month and try to rotate groups. This doesn’t mean you have to fill your schedule with commitments; just let yourself be seen.
There is no one that knows your company like you do. No ad, no e-mail, no tweet, can sell your passion as well as you do.
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.