Walking Billboards

Tuesday, 25th September

Last night I attended a roundtable discussion where we touched on the subject of ‘networking’. Now, we all know that Prague is a small town, and word of mouth is probably the most effective marketing tool that many of us have (service companies anyway). But I am continually baffled by people that believe that anyone can ‘do networking’ in the same way as anyone can ‘do marketing’ as I believe that, just like marketing, successful networking is quite an art.

When we discuss with our clients the idea of including ‘networking’ into their marketing plan, we go into quite a lot of detail about how best to actually succeed at networking – actually, I can take this even further, by talking about the concept of us all being ‘walking billboards’; how many times has someone told you that they saw you at x, y, z, or doing a, b and c, but you didn’t see them? It seems to happen to me a lot! So bearing in mind that I am a reasonably well known boss of a service company, do I really want someone to see me drunk and disorderly… or looking like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards? Probably not – better to do that somewhere where I wont be seen! And, actually, that reminds me of another event that I attended recently where there were a number of lawyers present, all completely drunk and fed up… and someone saying to me afterwards “would YOU instruct one of them to do your legal work?? I wouldn’t!!”.

So back to networking. Years ago one of our clients went on a ‘marketing course’ where they discussed the art of networking, and what he was told, and then put into practice, was that at any event he should never spend more than two minutes talking to one person, and that he should ensure that he handed over a business card during that two minutes and then move on. The end result being, presumably, that everyone in the room would know him, and the following day he would be inundated with calls asking him to provide a service…..

The problem, though, was that he carried out these instructions to the letter, barging in on people’s conversations, thrusting business cards under their noses, and then walking off mid sentence… and then when the phone didn’t ring after he had attended a number of events, out came the same old ‘marketing doesn’t work’ phrase that I so love to hear!

Years ago, my mother told me that the way to a man’s heart on a first date was to spend the whole evening asking him questions about himself, and he would go home thinking that you were the most interesting person in the world. I think this was pretty good advice (sorry guys), and something that is worth thinking about when you start your networking campaign. In the service business, I believe that the biggest reason that someone appoints you to do a job is because they like you, trust you, and think that they will enjoy working with you – it is not always because they think you will be good at the job – if you have been in business for some time, it is a bit of a given that you probably know what you are doing. So if your networking isn’t bringing in the desired results, why not try the boyfriend tactic and next time you attend an event, work out who you would like to target and then spend your time asking about them rather than talking about you… they might just go away thinking you are the most knowledgeable person in town!

Since this is a favourite topic, more is sure to follow!