I recently asked a client..
Where do you go to develop New Business?
I found his answer to be intriguing and a confirmation that more needs to be done in the Business Networking arena to develop solid business connections. It seems attending conferences and trade gathers is where over 90% of his new contacts are made with the remaining 10% split between offline ads in trade publications and online marketing.
In evaluating the conference and tradeshow arena where he does most of his marketing for business I found these venues were probably his company’s most valuable market for finding new business. However, what he was doing to draw attention to what their company does while at these conferences fell very short of what he could do.
His efforts of standing inline to meet someone he wants to talk to or going to an event to bump into the people he wants to talk was resulting in being brushed off to another time.
It seems the old ‘Time’ issues always hinders many efforts to get to talk to someone for any time about business opportunities. These leaves many to using this very old ‘set up camp and hand out business cards’ method of business networking. Many of the people my client wanted to talk to, or got a lead he needed to meet, were always too busy to talk or referred talking to a time when it was not convenient to him. Yep, this is the old ‘Brush Off” and is part of what has to be dealt with, but more obvious, it was the reasons they were brushing him off as what I found most interesting.
It was here where I found where how conferences, tradeshows and seminars are starting to become more of places to go to LEARN than places to go to be seen. The executives who are holding the purse strings of businesses are now are finding that they need more than a MBA to survive in today’s economy. Good old fashion street smarts is now coming back as being something they REALLY need but desperately lack. Going to conferences for the learning opportunities and educational value was more important to them now than standing around meeting new people and passing out business cards as was the case of what most executives felt conferences where use for.
What my client was finding was previously happening was that the guys and gals he was needing to talk to were sending one of their underlings to sit in the lectures and workshops to learn something the business needed to know. Now these keepers of the gate of his business market were going to those sessions themselves to learn and be educated on how to do something new. This now is their only focus of attending conferences more so than the networking opportunities.
As little as four years ago, conferences, seminars and workshops were seen as places to go to JUST mingle and meet people. The sessions, seminars, workshops and lectures from top experts in their field where look upon as just fillers to the networking opportunities. Over my 30 years of attending a dozen or so conferences a year I was seeing more people sitting in the lobby talking than sitting in the sessions or workshops. In some cases today I still see the groups in the lobby but the cause of the session’s truancy today is performed by more narcissistic business people than the now mainstream business people who attend the conferences to learn.
Today, the sessions, the workshops and the learning lectures is what the executives are coming to the conferences to absorb. This is not to say that there are not networking opportunities and activities set up for these attendees to partake. There usually are activities just for that opportunity. However, even those affairs set up for the networking are starting to become expansions of the sessions and are developing into a continuation of the learning experience. It is good to see top executives are taking a more hands on approach to doing business and learning what is needed to actually improve or do better business. Now what is happening they are starting to miss the boat on the tangible business opportunities.
So the question becomes..
How do you market your business to people who come to today’s conferences and tradeshows focused only on the educational opportunities?
Finding a way to take advantage of the opportunities available is the smart move here, but the worst thing to do is to attempt to get in these people’s way of learning. What I suggested be done is become a presenter of the information or take a road to becoming more involved in the educational part of the conference gathering.
This does not mean someone should set up a circus tent outside the conference and put on a workshop focused on what you do…believe me, I have seen this and still can’t believe that there are people in business today who feel the ‘Freak Shows’ (as they are referred to) are still worth the expense and efforts.
What works best is to go to the conference directors and offer to conduct the next year’s session on whatever your business is an expert in. Don’t attempt this if your business is not an expert in anything..it just does not work that way.
Of course, there are some suggestions I make to clients I feel could be solutions to anyone who is truly interested in finding New Ways of making New Business connections.
Produce Pre/Post Conference Business Golf Outing
Many times, if timed well ahead of time and if you know who the players are in who you want to connect with, inviting these people to your company’s Business Golf outing that is being held the day before or day after the conference they all are going to attend will provide them with another learning experience and some recreation that opens the door to your business’ needs. This is more than a regular ‘Glad Hand Shake’ Golf Outing..there is a purpose and a subject , issue or educational program offered afterwards that is relevant to the theme of the main show that is the day after or that preceded the business golf outing.
Attend pre-existing Business Golf outing
Invite people you want to connect with or get to know better to join you at a business golf outing that is open to the public.
Learning New ways to do business is leading to learning new ways to network with business people. Teaching what you do for a living could result in the most effective way to networking what you do for a living. Let me know how I can help.
BTW: The Business Golf Country Club is another way to effectively network with Real People online. The BGCC is looking to offering its members and their guest offline business educational opportunities. Make sure to join the club so you can be part of these outstanding opportunities to expand your business in the correct direction.