The New Networking: What Works for Business Owners

Today’s small business owners are busier than ever. For a variety of reasons, these entrepreneurs begin and end each day feeling like they are at least two hours behind in unchecked emails and unreturned phone messages. Regardless of the cause of increased demands on time, the results are the same: business owners today place a premium on their time, thus proving the age-old adage, “time is money,” true. Because of this new environment in which time can be viewed as a currency, prudent entrepreneurs shrewdly evaluate HOW they spend time. Thus, when considering “networking” tasks, many entrepreneurs have decided that throwing a few dollars in the garbage could be a more effective use of time than attending a traditional networking event.
At traditional networking events, attendees will mill around with a drink in hand, meeting people and exchanging business cards. At newer, “accelerated” events, attendees may exchange thirty or more business cards instead of the usual ten at a traditional cocktail “hour”. At some of these events, the organizers distribute a spreadsheet with the contact information of all the attendees, making it even easier to send inbox-clogging mass emails. Modern business owners, short on time and low on patience for squandering it, cringe at the idea of wasting hours at an event where they “meet” a variety of people who share no interest other than selling products. They dread not only the event and superficial introductions, but also the misuse of time that could be spent more productively. Upon returning to their offices, they find themselves added to new marketing related email blasts. When I speak with clients who are successful business owners, I find that they have sworn off these events as a matter of principle.

As a response, a new and more effective form of networking has emerged. Many of our small business owner clients have begun gathering with other entrepreneurs in order to share and pool information and resources. They have started to form networks among common industries and localities. When getting together, these business owners agree to NOT share business cards or practice elevator speeches. They simply share stories and experiences, hoping to collaborate and glean information from one another. This can provide a greater return on investment for one of their most valuable resources- their time. These new networking groups function almost as a peer support group in which respect for time and privacy reign supreme. Participants offer suggestions, solutions learned from experience, and referrals to trusted professionals. Because even busy entrepreneurs need to let loose, though, these events may graduate into social functions at times; however, the prospect of a hard sell is never on the horizon.

At Blount Law, we advise business owners to participate in associations in their industry as well as associations in their community. We also advise those who are looking to “market” themselves to offer prospective customers something of value. For example, they could enable clients to make the most of their time by providing opportunities to meet and engage with other business owners in a venue that will allow them to establish lasting connections. A smart business owner recently told me, “If they send me multiple emails in a week, I delete them. If they call me asking me to become a member of something, I delete them. If they bother me with multiple phone calls, I delete them because they just cost me money.” Marketing in 2016 no longer involves a one-minute elevator speech with a sales pitch. It’s important to give business owners something that makes their lives easier, saves them time and offers them an opportunity to meet other business owners in their industry. Toss out your magnetic nametags and drink tickets and start effectively networking!

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Written by blountlaw

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