Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Beyond Happy Hour: Modern Marketing and Networking Concepts

Learning to market and network with potential clients, customers, or people that can provide you with referrals for clients and customers can be one of the biggest challenges facing someone charged with producing business. Last summer, I was sitting in the spa with some of my colleagues at a firm retreat when someone said, “why don’t we do this with clients, it’s perfect—we are relaxed, sitting in a beautiful room, chatting.” This was brilliant, and something I had never considered. Why not bring clients to the spa?
We actually did bring some clients to the spa a few months later. The right clients, the right spa service, nothing awkward in robes, and something that gave us time to talk. We went with manicures and pedicures. This turned out to be a hit. We ended up with a tremendous business opportunity, along with some quality client bonding time.
The spa isn’t for everyone and isn’t going to work in every business combination. My point is that we often don’t think beyond golf, dinner, or a game when it comes to marketing and networking options. Some nontraditional ideas might be just what your business needs. 
Along with the spa, I have been reading more about the benefits of taking a client or customer to do something active. Go to the gym and talk next to each other on the treadmills. Play a pick-up game of basketball with friends. Take an opportunity to do something lightly competitive, active, and fun. The concept of networking at the gym is an extension of the idea of playing golf with neither the 5 hour time commitment, nor the requirement for 75 degree weather and a country club membership. You can invite a client to join you for a training session, a spin class, or a long run. These options may only require a 60 minute time commitment, and can occur at any time of the day and in any temperature. 
Aside from inviting a client to the gym with you, the gym itself can be an excellent place to network. Many successful people make a serious habit out of spending time at the gym. Join classes and other opportunities to exercise and compete casually with other active and successful individuals. You may be surprised how many great contacts would come from something so simple.
Finally, rather than the typical long lunch, happy hour, or fancy dinner, think breakfast. Breakfast meetings are something I do more and more often. Breakfast is usually faster than other meals, easier to schedule, doesn’t interfere with people’s 9-5 day, and the morning is often when people feel the most energized and fresh. Immediately after your meeting you go in to the office fresh with ideas from that breakfast meeting. You are more likely to act on those ideas, to actually follow up as you promised, and to make that introduction you mentioned.
Clearly these ideas do not work for all businesses, nor would they work for all clients/customers, but something new to add to what you are already doing to market to clients or network with others.

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