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The Karma of Networking Events: Patience is the Secret to Lead Generation

Tags: , , IT industry, IT Tips Baltimore

The other night I attended a networking event. It’s an annual event, but this is the first time I’ve gone. I was fascinated as to how many people I knew at this event. Many from events I still regularly attend, but others from groups I used to go to, or even groups that just are no more. I met some knew, and re-established contact with folks with whom I’d been long out of touch.

This morning, I emailed someone who was at the event, who doesn’t do very much networking for his business, and asked him what he thought of it. His response was, “As far as the event, I met a couple of people that I will follow up on. If anything positive comes out of that, it will have been worth it, otherwise, not.” Now, to me, that perspective is… bizarre. But I have come across it many times before. So I responded to his email, but I’d like to share it with all of you who use networking as part of your business-marketing plan:

My philosophy on networking events is that it’s almost always worth it. If nothing solid comes out of it, you met some people. Next time, you’ll run into some of them, and now you’re not strangers anymore. You talk a little bit about whatever – the Ravens, vacation spots, whatever. The next time they’ll smile when they see you and say “HIIIII – How ARE you?” And after that, you schedule a one-on-one, etc… Like other marketing initiatives, this is a game of brand awareness. The more you get to know them; the more they get to know you, the more likely they will feel comfortable thinking of you as “the accountant” when they have issues, or when they talk to other business owners.

I go to two networking meetings pretty much every week. And for those folks, I am the “computer guy.” I don’t always get leads from them, but when I do, it’s business. I’ve gotten $10,000+ deals from these meetings. Only a few, but to me, that justifies my attending them. I also go to several other events, as I catch them. And very often, I meet people that I know from other events, and they introduce me to other people I didn’t know. And the cycle goes round…

For example, I met someone from a networking group I was in years ago, whom I haven’t seen in a long time. He’s now working for a different company, and when we were talking, I asked him whom his targets are. One of his targets turned out to be the company that one of my friends works for, and he was there last night. I introduced them. He’s so happy; he wants to buy me dinner! A woman I met at the same event is a target for another one of my friends, who was also there last night. I introduced them. Now whether or not they actually wind up doing business together, those people will remember that I tried to help them. And if they have the opportunity to refer someone back to me, or if they even meet someone who wants to work with small IT companies, chances are I’m going to get that referral. That’s the power of networking.

That’s not to say be a mercenary and pretend that you want to help others in order to receive some future gain. It doesn’t work like that. It’s more like… karma. You put good stuff out there; good stuff will come back. I believe that, and I’ve seen it in my business.

So if you go to meetings and events, and don’t immediately meet people that are looking for what you do, don’t give it up as a worthless endeavor. Keep going. Meet more people. Get to know the ones you’ve already met, better. And help people, even if you don’t think they can help you. Because you never know…

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