I’ve always been cynical about networking events. The same merry-go-round of people - most of whom are far more interested in selling something than in really finding out about you or your company – all to end up with a wallet full of business cards with contact details that you’ll never use. It’s a confession I’ve never made before. Perhaps because ‘putting yourself out there’ is such a basic principle of marketing success. Perhaps because questioning the value of networking events would prompt me to stop going. And if I stopped going, maybe I’d miss out on that one opportunity to meet the useful business contact I’ve been waiting for.
I can make the confession now because I’ve changed my mind! And I’ve changed my mind because the networking event I attended last week did indeed produce the holy grail of networking: a contact with whom I can develop a mutually-beneficial business relationship. The contact in question is a construction professional who was made redundant thanks to the recession and found it difficult to find another senior role. So he thought laterally: he still had years of experience and the contacts that come with it. He was interested in my business and what we do and how we’re doing…..and he could see a way that he could help.
So now his contacts, his nose to the ground and the news he picks up on the grapevine are part of CME’s competitive advantage. We know that his knowledge and experience will ensure he passes us only genuine new business leads, and he knows that we value his insights and will pay him commission for any new client relationships we gain as a result. It’s win-win for both of us and we’re already looking for other construction professionals to help us generate new business leads in the same way.
So the next time you’re checking your watch at a networking event, handing out business cards like sweeties and dutifully accepting them back…. just stop for a second. The person you’re talking to may not seem like a useful contact but perhaps they will be one day, or maybe they know someone who needs something you can provide. Just remember, networking is marketing in its most fundamental form and bear in mind these three golden rules:
- Don’t assume that a person can’t be of value to you just because they don’t want to buy anything from you
- Treat a room full of business people like a knowledge bank for you to plunder
- Make yourself memorable