Thought Leadership on Integrated Marketing Communications presented by RMR Associates.
There’s no question that advertising and public relations, when done well, are essential, effective methods for reaching large groups of people, some of whom will become your customers. But to be noticed, heard and remembered, nothing beats the power of 1:1 marketing.
Now hold on just a second, I’m not suggesting you go door-to-door armed with your business cards and literature like an eager politician — though that is a type of 1:1 marketing, and a powerful one at that! Voters are far more likely to choose a candidate after they’ve met in person. Why else would politicians go to such lengths to shake thousands of strange hands and cuddle scores of unknown babies?
Networking at meetings and events
Why do you attend meetings and events? If it were just to get and give information, email and the internet are much less costly and time consuming. You make the time and commit to the expense of attending meetings and events to be seen. To meet face-to-face. To be heard. And most important, to be remembered.
Meeting in person puts a face to your business. But to be remembered, you have to work at it. That’s why it’s called networking and not netblobbing, netstanding or netwatching.
Practice the “Woo” factor
Ever told an anecdote at a party and noticed the other person glancing off in another direction or concentrating too much on their plate of munchies? Instinctively, you know this person is not going to become your best friend or business partner. To gain someone’s friendship or business, you have to show interest. A lot of it. Show that you’re listening by making eye contact, devoting your full attention, nodding your understanding, asking questions and commenting with your ideas. It’s a lot like wooing a potential date — you need to look interested and interesting as well.
Put on a happy face
In business, as in the rest of life, it’s important to be yourself. But in business you need to be your best self. No one wants to do business with a grouch or Eeyore, the woe-is-me donkey. Relax and smile. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, look into relaxation techniques and find the ones that work for you. Practice smiling in the mirror until it becomes natural. When you do this regularly, an interesting phenomenon will occur — you will actually feel happier! Research shows that when you smile, endorphins are sent to your brain to tell it to be happy. The brain doesn’t know if the happiness is real or not, it just accepts the endorphins, which in turn increase happiness. When you look happy, you seem more approachable and likable. And people want to do business with people they like.
Remember the three-foot rule
If you’re within three feet of someone — close enough to reach out and touch — smile and strike up a conversation. Ask them what they do. Asking questions is the easiest way to keep a conversation going, and to learn about the person and where you can fit into the picture.
Prepare your “elevator speech” in advance
If you’re in marketing, chances are you’ve memorized your company’s elevator speech — that 30-second sales pitch that tells potential customers what your company does, how it does it better than anyone else, and what you can do for them, all in the short amount of time it takes to ride up in the elevator.
Ask for the next step
As every salesperson knows from Marketing 101, you’ve got to step up and ask for the sale. But when you’re networking, typically you’re not quite to that point. You need to know where you are in the sales cycle, what your next step needs to be, and ask for it. A sit-down meeting, just the two of you? A meeting with his boss or other decision makers? A product demonstration? And if it has become obvious that he isn’t going to be a prospect for you, ask for referrals to those who might be good leads. Whatever it is, make the most of the time you’ve put into networking by reaching for that next step.
Leave ‘em with your “walk-away” statement
You’ve disarmed them with your smile, wowed them with the Woo factor, dazzled them with your elevator speech, and maybe even succeeded in setting up a next step. Before you walk away, be prepared to leave them with something short but powerful to remember you. Shorter even than your 30-second elevator speech, this can be a one-sentence wrap-up that leaves them wanting more. If you haven’t given out your business card yet, do it here, delivered with a firm handshake and reassuring smile.
Follow up within 24 hours.
Like bananas sitting out on the counter, there’s a short timeframe from when a prospect is ripe and ready for your next step, and when your budding relationship starts to disintegrate. If you said you’d call on Tuesday, make the call Tuesday morning. If she said she’d “be in touch soon,” call her instead if you don’t hear from her within the expected time. While you may not be able to follow up on hundreds of leads within 24 hours of an event, start with your hottest leads and work from there. If you met them at a meeting or event, they’ve met your competitors too, and will be getting follow-ups from them as well.
Put these networking tips into practice the next time you attend a meeting or event, and don’t be surprised if you leave a big network of interested prospects waiting for you to call.