Three years ago, I left the security of a full-time job and ventured out on my own. A little scary? Sure. A mistake? No! I did not have a traditional marketing budget—no plans for social media ads, printed promotional materials, and PR. And, guess what? I thrived.
What’s my trick? I have more than one, but the first is that I made sure to establish a solid reputation (check out my post on that ditty here: Stop the Insanity—The One Thing You Need To Do To Market Your Business Well).
The second is that I market through networking, and that means that I am responsive—I respond to emails and reach out to someone if I say that I’m going to do so. Now you’re probably thinking, that’s it? But, you would be surprised at how “not common” that is. Seriously.
I joined the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce when I moved to the area eight months ago. Networking is not natural for me, but it’s ideal marketing for my business. I have to force myself to leave the comfort of my home to meet people for both professional and personal reasons, and once I get out, I really enjoy it. I’m not as active as some members of the chamber (every hour away from my desk is an hour I’m not getting paid), but I go regularly and now have a steady group of peers to connect with, both professionally and personally.
Honestly, I never have an agenda when I attend chamber events, because I have found that when I’m just myself, networking happens more organically. I find myself connecting with people who have similar interests, and if I get new business out of that relationship, it’s just a bonus.
Whenever I swap business cards with someone, if I’m genuinely interested in connecting, I’ll follow up via email within a day or two. And, should someone reach out to me, I respond within a day, if at all possible. I’m responsive. Unfortunately, I am finding that not everyone does the same in return.
In the past eight months, I have attended several chamber events. At one event recently, two people handed me their business cards and said, “Please reach out. I would love to connect.” I emailed them both that day, including times to meet with one of the people (per his request to grab coffee). And guess what? A month later and I still have not heard from either of them. Sure, I could follow up, but, honestly, I’m no longer interested in connecting with them. Maybe that’s harsh, but if you can’t take 2 minutes to respond to an email, you don’t deserve my business or my comrade, and I am certainly not interested in your business (time is money and clients who waste my time are not worth it).
Now you might be thinking, it’s probably just a one-off occurrence and totally random that two people from one meeting happened to drop the ball. Nope, not the case. I tracked the number of people I reached out to during several networking events:
- Fall event: 1 out of 9 responded
- Winter event: 2 out of 8 responded
- Spring event: 2 out of 5 responded
And the really crazy thing? I’m not even asking for their business. I’m a potential client of theirs! What the heck?
Bottom line—if you give your business card to someone and/or ask her to reach out to you, respond! You can spend all the money in the world on a marketing budget, but it won’t do you any good if you aren’t responsive.
As for me, I’ll still be attending chamber events—I enjoy them and appreciate that they “push” me out of my comfort zone. However, I won’t be sending business to people who don’t respond to my emails.
*Okay, so maybe you’re not an email person and that’s why you don’t respond. If that’s the case, then don’t have your email on your business card, or, put “preferred to be contacted by phone” or “text” or “on Facebook” or whatever on your card. You have to let people know how to reach you if you want business.