By Catherine Lang-Cline
It seems like there are networking events every day of the week. After you have decided which one to attend, you need to figure out how to get the most out of your time, something beyond, “what do you do?” and “can I have your card?” Everyone is there for the same thing, to shake hands and maybe make some sales. With that in mind, you should not be afraid to start a conversation. You should also be doing more then just collecting cards too. Here are a few things you can do to not only meet people, but market to them, too.
Be happy to meet someone. As you are introducing yourself, do it in a way that is friendly and warm. Seem obvious? Apparently it is not, as many people can treat you like just another handshake with no eye contact or no real interest in their voice. You never know who you are going to meet, so display an attitude of what it would be like if they are your customer. People like working with people they like and people that will take care of them. The first impression you give markets your business as a place that is friendly and can help them.
Everyone is talking business and sales, so throw a curveball and talk about the food at the event, ask if this is their hometown, maybe ask what they like to do when they are not working. The idea is, you want your conversation to stand out. It will really stand out if you discover that you both have something in common. People like to do business with people that they share common interests. Dig for that and they will remember you as someone that they can relate to.
Ask them about their business first, people love to talk about what they do. It is giving them the opportunity to make the first pitch. You then get to talk about you and your business. Since they went first, you can make your pitch to directly address their needs, you can customize your pitch to fit their business. Target your products or services based on what you heard and connect the dots for them! Plus, once they see how you can actually help them, you will stick in their mind the next time they have a struggle.
Ask how you can specifically help. If you can’t help them, is there someone that they know that they can connect you with that does need what your business offers? Warm lead! Is there someone you can introduce them to at this event that they would like to meet or can help them in some way? Connect them! They will not forget your helpfulness and they will love to know that they helped you. You are marketing yourself as a connector and a partner in the community.
Think about how your social media is set up, what information are you pushing out, what articles have you written, or what information are you sharing with the world? All of these things are great marketing talking points and conversation starters to show others how you are the expert in your area. People love hearing from an expert and you can think of this conversation as you hand-delivering your social media marketing. Sometimes people don’t need your business right away, but if you can help them right now in another way that shows off your expert thinking, they will first be grateful, and then remember you as the expert when they do have a need.
None of this can guarantee business of course, but what it does do is allow you to market yourself through conversations that will be remembered. It takes a number of events and meetings with people more to get your message out. There is an unwritten rule in marketing that people need to see a message seven times before recognizing it or acting upon it. Be patient, be present, and market yourself as you go.