Do you go, or have you ever been to those ‘networking meetings’? How did it go for you? I remember learning a lot, doing a bit of business and having a few laughs. But I know that it wasn’t the same for everyone.
Today, I believe that Social Networks make it better.
But they knew something in the old days
Ok, things have changed a bit. But finding the right channels to talk to the right audience, this stuff is still relevant. More than ever. Whilst Social Networking enables new markets and audiences, the fundamentals are quite similar, the basics were more than useful.
Getting some context stayed with me. How differently everyone looks at the World, how being specific often produced better results than being broad. I am still finding these things useful every day, it made me think more about audiences, about who we’re talking to. Eventually lessons sink in.
Which Networking is the Right Audience
This started for me way back in 2009 and so I had to physically go and find out. Spotting a likely bunch (BNI), I picked up the phone and asked to be invited. There was this thud from the other end of the phone, I think someone had fallen off their chair (it wasn’t normal for people to volunteer).
The wheels started to turn. A guy called Steven, a total professional, rang me back. He picked the most likely group for me and off I went, to be educated, to meet some new friends with similar interests.
It was a strange environment. Telling each other what we do, and how we do it. A bunch of people who all know each other quite well, it seemed. Standing up and speaking in front of strangers put a lot off from coming regularly though.
People will be People
Some of the people dynamics at the time;
- A lot of people didn’t like the formulaic approach to ‘do what’s good for you’.
- Wherever there are rules and people, politics follow
- Fear of competition was palpable. My first meeting, I was accosted by a PR copywriter, saying, “you do what I do”.
You get on with some, not with others. We’re all fallible and brilliant by turns. We did some business.
This was what we were there for. At first glance, generating leads appeared to be based on who was in the room, the networking audience. Although there was a lot more to it than that, you can see people silently asking, “am I in the right place?”
Consumer businesses often did immediately well because they served wide audiences, everyone in the room, and all their friends – Gardeners, Plumbers and Car Mechanics.
And those selling to Small Businesses did well, because they had a very focussed networking audience – in other words, everyone else in the same room – Small Business Marketers, Personal Assistants and Business Coaches got leads.
High Frequency Businesses did ‘well’ in that they got lots of leads, but then, often you need a lot of those small transactions if you’re a flower shop, cake maker or nail technician.
So what did well again?
- Generic Wide Audience
- Focussed Small Audience
- High Frequency of Purchase
A generic wide audience, when you can work for anyone, then a networking group could work well for you. Those consumer businesses got work, but the quality of work could be questionable.
For the Small Business Services group, if you’re in a room where everyone can be your customer, then that time spent should also serve you well.
And finally, if you have a low value high frequency product, then people will spend money with you because they like doing business with people they know.
If you do well, then you may well get referred. The effects can be quite far reaching. Ripples in the pond. This is when you would hear the phrase, “You’re not selling to people in the room”, and that was sometimes true, depending on who it was. How switched on.
Power Group Audiences
From a more advanced view was, when in similar industries, that people could band together. This was a way to build things, introducing each other’s similar audiences – competition was a misnomer.
- Copywriters work with Designers, work with Marketers work with Website Developers work with Googlers.
- Accountants work with Conveyancers, work with Lawyers, work with Mortgage Advisors work with Bookkeepers (more of a guess this one).
- I presume Health and Lifestyle companies work together.
Who did it not work for?
- Specialised expertise didn’t always find much company. Niche business had little competition but a relatively small local audience.
- High value deals tended to be done by larger companies, whether business to business or consumer
- Low frequency businesses – their best prospects were hardly ever in the room (dilute audiences)
These were people who were better served by industry specific exhibitions, trade advertising, industry account management and Search Marketing.
Modern Day Networking, Powered by Social
Things are not the same. Networking grew up. Apparently we’re in relationships now. But we’re in a bigger brighter brave new world. Everyone is now connected, we’re all in the same room as our natural partners, more often.
We’re in bigger, online rooms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and my Favourite, Google Plus.
What this means is more people can play
- Specialised Expertise can find an audience more readily online (someone should write a book about that – is there a link to somewhere?)
- High value, infrequent deal, and niche businesses, if not the same thing, can ‘get’ found more easily
Low frequency businesses might probably still be best served by Search, but it’s rarely one or the other.
We get to build our own Audiences
We have that one big audience, but what we need is lots of different channels. They might find you, and you might find them but over time I hope it will get more relevant.
People now talk about groups, lists and circles in the same way as Networking people talked about Power Groups, and that TV people talk about new channels. Only, this is two way communication, with tools like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Buffer, Pocket, Pearltrees and Feedly to create and monitor conversations.
When at a conference on biddable media this week, there was an expectation that TV ads will become biddable, just as web based ads are today, targeted at what people are most interested in.
The ‘net result’ will be that you and I will be watching ‘Tailored TV, with Tailored TV ads’. This is what Social Networking feels like when filtered properly. The same channels, the same devices, but a different experience for each of us. I watch to learn.
Essentially, our media, channels and audiences will drive our networking and our ‘meetups’. Saying the right thing, to the right audience in the right place at the right time. T’was ever thus.
We can do both
Isn’t it great? There is nothing but more opportunity. I guess the question is, what do we do first, for greatest effect?
This post is dedicated to Jon, Jacky, Jacqui, Steven, Heather, Michael, David, Peter, Sonja, Keith, Chris, Lee, David, Bill, Caroline, Mark, Alex, Tim and everyone else.Finding your Networking Audience? by Matt Lambert