Social media marketing is such an important aspect to our brands and as creatives you may say, "why do I need to network in-person"? Or that you are currently frustrated and exhausted from attending so many events and never booking a client.
The art of networking is so much more than just "showing up" and handing out business cards and then expecting people to be begging you to book. The funny thing is, that at net-workers no one in the room is actually there to "buy" or are looking for your service. Chances are they are also there to sell and represent their own companies.
So you may say. Oh "that proves it" these net-workers are a waste of time but that's actually not the case. You just have to approach these situations differently and strategically.
The true art of networking is to develop authentic relationships. I once read that it takes "7 touches" for a potential client to develop their trust and to be ready to buy from you.
You may call me old fashioned but in-person networking accounts for the majority of my leads. We are in a word-of-mouth referral business and I have found 5 key steps to successfully utilizing in-person net-workers to grow and create a thriving business:
5 Steps to Networking with Purpose:
1- Have a plan and a goal in mind. In my early years of business I would go to every single event I was invited to, with a handful of business cards and eager to pass them out to everyone. This left me exhausted and feeling desperate. Now, I am very strategic about which events I will attend...only events that my ideal clients will be attending. These are mainly, high-end women's brunches, fashion shows, and female business net-workers. (Looking into your local Chamber of Commerce, fundraising events, and your local BNI chapters. Find groups that you actually enjoy attending with people you can become friends with).
2- Be positive and feel good before attending. Nothing is worse than forcing yourself out after a long day at work and being in a "bad" mood. Not to mention trying to fake being energized, authentic, and engaging with people. So, I always plan for downtime before a net-worker to take a moment and set a positive intention, touch up my makeup, and leave early to feel at ease. If you are really in a bad mood or not feeling well, then your time is better spent at home. Skip the event. We don't have to do it all and the worst thing is to give off bad energy to potential clients. We want to be authentically excited to be there.
3- Listen more than you speak. The best way to be engaged is to be present and ask questions. Let the other person or woman speak about herself and her business, ask insightful questions to get to know her better. This is also a great tip if you are a little shy, just ask questions. Everyone loves to talk about themselves which will then help you get to know her. She will naturally ask you what you do and that's when you can show her what you do. I always keep a portfolio of images on my i-phone and let my work speak for its self.
4- Create a true relationship or friendship. People buy from people they like. Point blank. Women are incredible at making connections and helping their friends. Attend these events with the intention to make friends and to connect with people on a deeper level. You are not necessarily trying to sell to the people you meet, rather to their friends.
Imagine this, the more friends you have out there saying "OMG I know the sweetest and most talented photographer, you have got to call her for your portraits (or wedding etc.), the better!
5- Follow up & keep in touch. No one at these events is there to book you on the spot but they may have really enjoyed meeting you. This is where the follow up email/call, social media and marketing come into play. If a women did say point blank, "I'd love to hire you!" Then, the very next day you need to call or email her with a sweet message about what you spoke about. For everyone else you meet, add them to your newsletter list, invite them to like your Facebook page, etc. This is how your consistent social-media marketing will keep you in their memory as the "sweet and super talented photographer," So that when the time is right, you are the first person they call and refer to friends!