Season 6 – epiBLOG 4:
Because there are five Tuesdays in the month of July, you get this bonus blog post that I’m hoping will serve you and your entrepreneurial pursuits very well. Next week–as always, I will have my featured artist interview on the last Tuesday of the month.
Today’s topic is on finding and attending networking events in your area in order to expand your network.
Networking is an important skill to develop as an entrepreneur. Some don’t like the phrase, and prefer to use words like “meeting new friends” because it feels less intimidating. Regardless of what you call the process of: (1) introducing yourself, (2) sharing with someone what you do, and (3) getting to know the person you’ve just met, you need to connect with people or you won’t have a business at all.
The purpose of a business is to solve a problem. Your business needs to provide a product, service, or both that serves as a solution to someone else’s problem. When you clearly define what that looks like for you and your business, you then need to be clear on just who your target demographic is.
Many brand new entrepreneurs make the mistake of saying that “everybody” is in their target demographic. However, you can’t build a business marketing to everyone. That’s not a cost effective and time effective method of marketing. Plus, if you’re new to the business world, chances are you don’t have budget to blow on marketing options that are sure to fail.
Your time (and sometimes money) is best spent on getting to know people the good old-fashioned way—face-to-face. Yes, it is important to have a social media presence of some sort if you’re an entrepreneur. And when you have the budget to spend money on Facebook ads and the like, then create a strategic marketing plan for that when the time arises.
However, as a brand new entrepreneur, your time is better spent rolling up your sleeves, shaking hands, and genuinely getting to know people. This is the relationship-building phase. People need to get to know you, what you’re about, and what you do. There’s nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth, so let people know who you are so that they can share this newfound knowledge with others.
I’m not saying to attend a networking event daily, or even weekly for that matter. Events can get expensive and very time-consuming as well.
I suggest that you start with committing to attending two networking events a month. That’s what I’m committing to. After all, the rest of your time has to be spent serving the existing clients that you already have, responding to new client requests, the upkeep of your social media platforms, and any other tasks that are unique to your particular business or required by any business. (Invoicing, bookkeeping, etc.)
You have options for the types of networking events to attend. If you’re on a limited budget, you want to pay attention to the price of admission to these events. Some are completely free to get into, and others are pretty pricey. The free events are good practice for just being able to pitch your business to others.
Nevertheless, not all of the “free events” are worth your while. Remember, you need to narrow down your demographic to determine which events are worth your time and resources. Let’s take a look at this scenario. Imagine you have a travel agency with packages to exotic places and high-end accommodations. Imagine your demographic is wealthy couples with a household income of $500K a year or more who enjoy adventuring and/or going on regular vacations. If you attended a business start-up mixer event to connect with others who have just started their business, chances are you’re not going to meet people who qualify as potential clients. You could by chance, but it’s not likely.
Attendees won’t be able to afford the vacation packages you’re selling because all of their money is more than likely going into building their own business or they don’t have any money at all and are looking for investors/bank loans to get their business up and running. This group of people won’t be able to afford the fees for you to put a package together for them. You could attend this event, get a bunch of business cards, and even follow up with these people, but nothing is going to make them have the money for the service that you’re pitching them.
There is nothing wrong with getting to know as many people as you can. However, what you will find out as an entrepreneur is that your time is more valuable than money is. Connect with people, build genuine relationships, but you have to constantly look for opportunities to share your solution with others who are actually looking for your solution and have the budget to compensate you.
Keep in mind that there are several types of networking opportunities. There are networking groups that meet on a weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly basis. Each one has its own standards for how they run the meetings and if you’re a part of them, you’re to adhere to those standards. The downside to this is, if you’re in a weekly group, you’re more than likely not going to meet new people. However, the purpose of this group, which is the up side to it, is that it’s used as a referral source, which gives you an opportunity to get business and to give business to others via referrals. These groups share information with each other, learn from one another, are aware of each person’s business, and they’re able to share a specific ask or request with the group that could potentially bring in more business for them.
There are general mixers where you show up, write your name in permanent marker on a sticky name tag, stick it on your chest, and walk around the room holding a drink in your hand and carrying business cards in your pocket. You do your best to make conversations with people through simple introductions and sharing what you do. Be engaged in the conversations and genuinely get to know people as best you can. You also want to follow up within 24-48 hours with any contacts that you meet at these mixers.
There are also major seminars or events with a sole purpose in getting information to you—the consuming entrepreneur. These events are about learning, growing, and taking information back to your business and applying it. There are keynote speakers, books for sale in the back of the room, and oftentimes a little bit of down time when you can connect with other like-minded individuals. It’s not technically a networking event, but you can use it as such. You win all around; you get the opportunity to learn from the speakers and you get the opportunity to naturally meet people, and begin building on those relationships.
Today’s LESSON is to always meet new people and build those relationships by genuinely feeding them.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: Google events within your area and determine which ones would best serve you and your business. Commit to attending two networking events each month between August-December. Work hard. Work smart. Meet amazing people. Build genuine relationships. Build your business the right way.
Nitara Osbourne owns The Infinite Writer Agency, LLC, which provides content to producers, publishers, and individuals seeking help with developing their life stories into nonfiction books and movie scripts. Ghostwriting and blogging services are provided for clients as well. If you’re an accomplished entrepreneur, and are looking to tell your story, contact Nitara Osbourne. InfiniteWriterAgency@gmail.com.