I’m going to make two statements that seemingly contradict each other:
- The best form of marketing is networking.
- It’s hard to get business from networking events.
Both are true. And my perspective is a result of attending a number of networking events through the years. When I attended my first Chamber of Commerce Networking Event (and this was true of a local networking Club that I belong to), I tell you I was shocked to see that most people’s idea of networking was all about “Me, Me, Me!” People were so impersonal and took the event as their opportunity to pass out THEIR business card and tell you about THEIR business and what THEY could do for me. The goal of most people at these events was to either get someone to sign up for their business opportunity or to find a new customer. I was amazed at this short-sighted and short-term networking idea. To me, networking is about building relationships—finding others that you can create a MUTUALLY beneficial relationship with.
The most effective result of networking is finding someone who reaches a similar market as mine and then trying to build a partnership. If you have similar, but non-competing products…you can work together. My most loyal customers are those with whom I’ve become friends and shared either information or something else that was of value to them–and that doesn’t mean trying to sell them one of my products.
Let me tell you a story. Way back in the late 70’s, I started and published a statewide Singles newspaper. In each month’s issue, I ran a photo of myself and a “Notes from the Editor” column.” My readers got to know me from the tidbits of personal information that I included in that column and from the help that I provided when they called me. Many were lonely and just needed someone to talk to. I didn’t care if they were running their “profile” in my paper or not. I was there if they needed me. As a result, singles in other communities throughout the state organized parties or dinners for singles in their area and invited me and my husband to attend. We always did–and got to know our readers and potential readers on a more personal level. We weren’t selling them anything. We were building relationships.
Fast forward 25 or so years. Today, we still are friends with many of those singles today. I’m in a totally different industry today — but those lessons learned from Arizona Singles are still an important part of my business philosophy today.
Offer friendship with no strings attached and you will build relationships that can last a lifetime.