Writers are often introverts by nature, not painfully awkward (as the stereotype suggests), but simply more inclined to prefer their own company or that of a good book. The idea of deliberately attending an event where they’d meet and have to speak with dozens, if not hundreds of people, often seems counter-intuitive to writers.
But here’s the rub … local networking events – in particular Meetups – are an awesome way to find new business (if you do things correctly.) And in this article I’ll share how (with no formal training) I launched what became one of the largest local b2b networking groups in Southern Ontario Canada and you can too. In 9 months my group went from 0 to 1,000 members, and the best part, all these local businesses willingly gave me their email address and welcomed my messaging. (Hint hint.)
=== How It Started … on a Dare
I was tired, burned out, and frankly, jaded from traditional networking. The old-school networking model was not-working (pun intended!) I would attend an event, be ‘social’ and then rinse and repeat a few days later … with little to show for it. So I quit face to face networking.
Or so I thought, because my friends had other ideas. They’d heard me complaining about the old-school approach, one even “double dog dared” me to produce an event that “solved the problem.” Long story short, I accepted the challenge. How hard could it be – right?
It was now late Fall 2011, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The first email I sent to my list said something about ‘getting together in the new year to connect and network while enjoying a frosty beverage of choice.’ As you can see, I used powerful persuasion techniques!
=== 65 People, Then 100+ Then Over 300!
The first event attracted 65 people. The following month over 100 and the month after that I believe it was around 300. Things got a little crazy after that and I had to start a waiting list: TO ATTEND A B2B NETWORKING EVENT! Crazy right?
The following months my little “dare” of a project grew and grew until we were bigger than the local Chamber of Commerce – in fact, we’d become the group to follow/attend.
=== Why … How?
Okay, enough of the back story. The Meetupology™ model works. Here’s WHY it works and HOW you can model your business building strategies around it. After all, I built it for a few reasons:
(1) To generate leads for me … I was tired of attending all the other events so I figured I’d invite everyone to attend mine instead. One event for me to attend per month instead of many! Simple math. (Sidebar: I joke that I’m a lazy entrepreneur!)
(2) To prove I could persuade people … locally I was known for my copywriting and marketing services, this was a “case study” and proof I could walk the walk and talk the talk.
(3) To gain email addresses and permission … this one was a big deal for me. As an introvert (INTJ,) email marketing is my preferred method and the rules about spamming people get stricter all the time. The idea people would willingly give me their email details and welcome frequent messaging from me was huge. Email permission has to be the single biggest benefit for me.
=== Falling Barriers, Falling Prices
Today you can connect and communicate with thousands of people for pennies. This means the barriers of old-school networking are falling away in the face of social media, email and platforms like Meetup.com (which I recommend and use.)
Because of this shift I made my networking group free to attend. Unlike other groups, I made our group about generating leads, building relationships and later down the line … making money from the list.
Remember, the list welcomes my emails because I’m giving them something they want: free b2b networking and saving them a lot of money in the process because what I offered would cost them $300-$500 per year elsewhere.
I also teach them marketing too, and since I’m a writer this is a perfect platform to showcase my skills. Plus, when you give someone something they want (and need) you generate reciprocity – they feel on some level, a sense of indebtedness. This works to your advantage.
=== But I Don’t Want To Start My Own!
I hear you. It’s a bit scary for sure, but seriously fun when you embrace it. Plus it elevates you in other ways I can’t begin to explain here. However if you really don’t want to create your own group then might I leave you with this one tip ensuring you are guaranteed people’s email addresses when you do network.
=== First Contact
Smile. Stick out your hand and say, “Hello my name is [your-name.] What do you do?” Let them talk. Ask other questions about the problems keeping them up at night. Empathize with the challenge of being their own boss. Look for the conversation point where you recognize a problem you can solve.
Now offer to share some report, tool, advice, special doohickey THAT HELPS THEM SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM.
Simply tell them you’ll have it emailed to their office tomorrow … now smile and wait.
Watch how fast they give you their email/business card 🙂