Good Old Fashioned Networking

Do you think only about the Internet when you try to come up with ways to promote your website? Think again. Your customers don’t live on the Internet — why not reach them where they do live? Wayne Hurlbert explains.

When most website owners think of website promotion, the first ideas that usually spring to mind almost exclusively involve the Internet. In the real world, however, the webmaster doesn’t live on the Internet alone, nor do potential visitors to your website.

People have a life away from the Internet. They attend business functions, social events, and sometimes you just meet someone by chance. Every person you encounter in the offline world could be a potential customer for your products and services. When you meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions they may ask is what you do for a living. This is a golden opportunity to gain free publicity.

Telling people you meet every day about your business and website is simply good old fashioned networking. It’s a classic business technique that the Internet never put out of style. It’s time to put this time-proven business builder to work for you.

Doing some of that old fashioned face-to-face networking requires places to meet prospective customers. By looking around your business catchment area, you can find some worthwhile events to attend and groups to join. Be certain to be prepared to meet potential customers and clients in unexpected places such as restaurants, elevators, and even on the street.

Community groups and non-profit organizations are a great place to begin your networking campaign. Visit with as many groups in your community as you possibly can prior to joining. Some organizations are more educationally oriented, some are mainly in search of volunteers, and others are interested in facilitating business contacts. Learn as much as you can about the group focus, its support for business networking, the quality of its leadership, and its general tone. That way you can select the groups that are right for you and your business. Once you choose the groups you wish to join, become involved in their activities. Sign up as a volunteer on a few of their committees. If at all possible, select one that has some relation to your field of business.

As with community groups, be sure to attend and participate in as many trade shows and conferences as possible. Along with making great business contacts, you will also find a sea of potential customers and clients.  Consider teaching courses and seminars in your area of expertise. Sharing what you know and helping others will pay off in additional customers. The word of your knowledge and abilities in your field will spread very quickly. Always be seen as a helpful person and someone who is a very professional business resource. If people view you as an expert willing to share advice freely in your area of business, they will gravitate towards you for ideas and assistance. It also serves to keep your name and business visible to them for the future.

Now this is a big one which a lot of people miss on: always carry a supply of business cards with you. Don’t leave the office without them! Be certain that your website URL, your email address, and your site RSS feed URL are included on all of your business cards, brochures, and other promotional materials. Never let any materials leave your office without them.

When meeting someone for the first time, you only have a few seconds to make a good first impression. Be courteous and well groomed at all times. Look professional and be professional. The payoffs include self confidence as well as potential customers.

You have to know how describe your products and services in less than 30 seconds. Develop a brief and punchy description of what your business can do for your customers. This capsule of your business is called an Elevator Speech. Write, rewrite, and practice one until you can present it with ease anywhere and at any time.  Listen carefully to the other people you meet and ask them questions. Most people are more than happy to talk about themselves, if given the opportunity. Many are also more than willing to help you with your problems. Remember that a good listener is usually remembered as a polite and very professional person. You will also gain much in the way of customer and market research. In fact, read Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People on how to develop this art.

Conclusion

Spending the entire day marketing on the Internet will result in many new customers and clients. Getting out into the real world, meeting and talking with people will develop even more. By listening and sharing your knowledge with others, your business will grow beyond your wildest dreams. All you have to do is a little old fashioned networking.

(This article originally appeared in the October 2004 issue of Plug-In).

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