Face-to-Face for Real or Fake it Online?

Are you focusing your networking efforts online or offline? Do you have a good mix of the two or are you spending your marketing time behind the safety of your keyboard more than getting out and shaking hands? You truly need to put your best face forward and attend in-person networking events as well as doing online networking because there is no better way to interact with potential clients and business partners than with face-to-face interaction.

Branding yourself and your business is best done through face to face interaction.  It is easy to become complacent and network from the comfort of your keyboard, but if you find your business stagnating, you should know that getting out in front of people will give your business a kick start. While networking at business events means you will have to perfect your “elevator pitch,” shake hands and hand out business cards, it is a great way to meet potential clients.

Take your online networking off line by setting up a Meet-Up event for your online business partners. Choose a central location, reserve a room and prepare to meet your online friends in an off line setting. What you do when you’re at networking events – whether Chambers of Commerce, industry-specific events and seminars – establishes you as a credible business person. One of the main goals when you’re networking will be to set yourself up as an expert in your field – a person with whom like-minded entrepreneurs will want to interact, use as a referral source and (bottom-line) do business with.

While at networking events you’re not there to merely tell people what you can do for them, you want to know what their pain points are. Ask questions, draw them out. Keep this information in the back of your mind – and make a note on the back of their business card so you can use it for follow up once you get back to your office. Just as your social media updates shouldn’t be all sales pitch, neither should your interactions with potential business partners.

Consider these when networking. These tips can also be carried forward to your online communications for your social media marketing:

  1. Who are the major players at the meeting? Are there specific individuals or specific industries to which you’d like to connect? Know your audience then you can tailor your pitch and make certain you make the most of the meeting.
  2. Always be prepared. It’s a good motto in business and in life. You never know when you will run into a potential business partner. Always be equipped with business cards and a firm handshake.
  3. You need to be more interested in the person with whom you’re connecting than you are with selling your products. Make a great first impression – be the person that they remember as being interested in what they have to say rather than what you have to sell.
  4. Be enthusiastic about the individual you’re meeting. Compliment their accomplishments. Ask to connect with them online, comment on their status updates and blog posts.
  5. As an entrepreneur you will likely know instinctively when the time is right to push for a business meeting, or even a get-to-know-you coffee. If you know someone who knows the potential business connection, ask for a referral or don’t be afraid to name drop, “Hey, Ms. XYZ, we both know Mr. ABC and he mentioned you do incredible work.”

Check out a few networking events, but don’t set your sights on only one until you visit a few to see what the best fit will be. If you are a social media maven and the networking event you attend is rife with individuals in your same field that might not be the best place for you to drum up business unless you can truly differentiate yourself from the competition. Bottom line, you are the key to the success your business enjoys – be the best ambassador for your business.