Networking: Necessary Evil or Untapped Opportunity?
Ah, networking – the marketing activity everyone loves to hate.
We say if you hate it, you’re doing it wrong.
What we often hear from people who do a lot of networking – professional services providers, in particular – is that networking is a necessary evil. But they don’t like it for a variety of reasons.
It’s time consuming, for one thing. It’s uncomfortable to talk about yourself, many say. It’s very hard to differentiate yourself from competitors in the room. And, maybe most important, it’s hard to know if it’s working: it’s frustrating to put a lot of time and effort into it without seeing a clear return on the investment.
Most of the clients we advise know that networking isn’t about standing in a room and vacuuming up business cards. They realize that they need to position themselves and their services as uniquely suited to the needs of the person they’re talking to and do so in a memorable way so they don’t promptly forget about you.
And you should get to the point quickly. While the concept of “What’s In It For Me?” has always been important in marketing, it is even more so in today’s overloaded, micro-second-attention-span world. If your prospect doesn’t understand nearly immediately how your services can benefit them, you’re likely to lose them.
The Elevator Pitch
This reality means that an effective “elevator pitch” is critical to networking success. Keep in mind, that an elevator pitch is like a cover letter: they’re both brief, initial missives whose only purpose is to get you to the next step (the hiring manager reading your resume, the prospect wanting to talk more substantively with you).
Your pitch should hook your listener with a concise, compelling story. Not the whole story, not even a summary or highlights. Just a few compelling messages for that particular person/networking group. Your prospects or referrers should leave the conversation understanding the unique benefits you can provide and wanting to learn more.
Remember, you’re not trying to close anyone at the networking event: your goal is to secure follow up conversations that will ultimately turn prospects into clients.
Networking as Part of a Well-Balanced, Diversified Marketing Mix
Networking seems so easy. Just go to a meeting and talk, right? Especially in fields where trust and personal relationships are so crucial to signing a new client (i.e., professional service providers such as lawyers, accountants, wealth managers and the like) networking seems like the perfect marketing tactic: face-to-face meetings where you can begin to develop a rapport and chemistry.
This false sense of security leads many to “overinvest” in face-to-face marketing strategies like networking, while “underinvesting” in other strategies that are equally, if not better suited to showcasing the individual’s expertise and garnering trust, yet require less time and are more easily benchmarked, such as seminars, speaking and writing opportunities, content marketing and more.
Most people understand the importance of having a well-planned, diversified, portfolio of investments; the same logic applies to the importance of having a well-planned, diversified, portfolio of marketing strategies and tactics. For both, planning, management and benchmarking makes the difference between profitable success and time-consuming failure.
To see the role networking can play in a well-balanced portfolio of marketing strategies & tactics please download “JointSourcing in Action: New Professional Services Firm, Obscurity to Awards”.