Seeing as we’re in the business card business, we often have conversations with customers about how their companies are doing. We’re always happy to hear about ventures that are flourishing, but we always pay special attention when clients are having trouble as well. One common complaint goes something like this:
“We’ve got such a great service in place. I just wish we could reach more of the right people.”
Businesses often try to do this by directly sending out emails or social networking communications to people or companies they see as potential clients. In some specialized fields, this might make sense, and there’s probably not a company on earth that would suffer because of this kind of outreach. But more frequently, we hear about companies that “accidentally” got big breaks because of “chance” face-to-face meetings they had with key individuals.
Thing is, if you wait for “chance,” chances are it’ll be a good long while before such golden opportunities come your way. Position yourself and your company ideally to meet an array of people, and you can actively increase your chances of excellent coincidences befalling your organization.
Here’s a quick guide to finding and attending can’t-miss networking events that are probably happening in your town. Don’t forget to bring your business cards!
Depending on what city you live in, there are a number of websites specifically aimed at highlighting networking opportunities in your town. Eventbrite.com is a service that allows users to create, promote, and sell tickets to events, including networking events, in a host of cities nationwide. If you get really ambitious, you can even use Eventbrite.com to create your own networking event. Networkingmonkey.com is a hub for networking events in Chicago; SD6degrees.com is specifically designed to connect professionals in San Diego; and MiamiBusinessExchange.com is one of Miami’s greatest networking event resources. Type “networking” and your city’s name into a Google search to find the sites geared toward your area. And then sign up and show up with your cards, brochures, and/or flyers!
Sometimes the best business connections are made outside in the real world, and sites like Meetup.com foster the coming together of like-minded people from all walks of life. When you share a non-work-related common interest with someone, you establish a rapport before a word about business escapes your lips. When there’s already an affinity in place, your new friend will be more likely to want to extend your relationship from fun to professional. Plus, as an added bonus, you get to do more of the stuff you love and experience an extended business network as a side effect. Depending on your city, Meetup.com features 340,000 monthly “meetups” in 45,000 cities worldwide, connecting people for activities and interests from golfing to kayaking to wine tasting, blogging, entrepreneurism, and discussions about “secular humanism,” whatever that means.
Many business owners work on amassing a lot of Facebook friends so they can reach a wide audience when they hold a sale or event. But oftentimes these same business owners forget to “listen” to their virtual buddies in return. Facebook invites are easy to ignore, but there are ever more great events happening in cities all over the place that rely on Facebook invites as their primary means of connectivity. Take the time to read about the next indie film club event or the grand opening party for a business related to your own and try actually RSVPing and attending the event as well. You’d be surprised about what good things could transpire!
We are big believers that business owners design the fate of their own enterprises. From what we’ve seen, the results of networking efforts are not hard to predict: the more you do, the better the results you will see. So get out there, smile, and listen more than you talk. If the first event doesn’t yield ten new clients, go to the next. You never know where or when you might encounter a big break, but one thing’s for certain – it won’t be at home on your couch on a Friday night!