Creative Marketing Solutions: Fresh, Effective Strategies for Attracting Clients and Customers from Marcia Yudkin
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Networking Maneuvers That Work

by Marcia Yudkin

Sherri Mack, a solo entrepreneur who designs and produces newsletters for companies, lands clients through networking at Boston-area meetings. When her turn comes to stand up and introduce herself, she says, "I help companies that want a creative newsletter but don't have the time to do it themselves and aren't sure they can afford it." This gets people thinking, she says, and those who approach her later for her card or to ask questions frequently turn into clients.

Mack's strategy of attracting business works more effectively than the pushier approach exemplified by a letter I've received all too often. "I enjoyed meeting you at the Such and Such meeting," the letter begins. Mistake - we did not actually meet. I remember clearly who I spoke 
with! This person obviously just wrote to everyone on the attendee list. 

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The letter goes on to describe the writer's service, one I have no need for, ending, "I will call you next week to discuss how I can help you achieve your business goals." Another mistake - presuming without evidence that I need what this person sells. I dislike such calls so much that I've even called the letter writer to ask them not to call me.

People writing such letters believe that networking is a matter of showing up to collect business cards or get the participant list, then working the leads. This method isn't much better than plucking prospects out of the Yellow Pages and cold calling, however. If you're going to spend the 
time and money to attend business meetings, follow these guidelines to turn them into a source of new business.

Strategically choose target groups for networking. Invest your marketing time in groups where a good many of those who attend meetings buy what you sell. Call the membership coordinator and ask what kinds of people belong and who attends events. Check those answers against your perceptions when you attend a trial meeting and go around shaking hands. In some groups, most of those who come to meetings are job hunting. 

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Expect long-term results. Once you've properly chosen an organization, show up frequently. Only repetition drums into people who you are and what you do, so that they remember when they or a colleague urgently need what you provide. If you're impatient, volunteer for a committee and you'll gain visibility and credibility within the organization a bit more quickly.

Go for quality of contacts, not quantity. Early in my career, I attended a dinner meeting where most everyone knew each other already. Intimidated, I started a conversation with another woman lurking on the sidelines and sat with her for dinner and the program. We spoke in much greater depth and breadth than people normally do on such occasions, and she called a week later to hire me to do something completely unrelated to the topic of that event. Think of networking not as a chance to robotically collect leads but to meet and get to know people, some of whom may represent business.

Copyright 2000 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved. 

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