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May 1, 2013
Business Networking Groups and Social Networking

Tonight, as I do most nights, I am putting on my best “social butterfly” dress and hitting the town. No, it isn’t Ladies’ Night at Club TrendyName, but something even more important: a social event being put on by a networking group we belong to. I attend these events often and do my best to represent the rest of the Eds, partly because I am more comfortable in the “social butterfly” dress, but mostly because I actually enjoy them.

“Trying to sell to another “seller” is like trying to keep both of your sides of the see-saw at the top.”

People seem to be pretty polarized on the idea of networking, and I can see why. If approached from the wrong angle, some events can seem like a huge waste of time (unless you measure the evening’s success in free chicken tenders and cookies). Early on, I left a couple of events asking myself why I had spent my time trying to sell to people who wanted nothing else but to sell to me first. (Trying to sell to another “seller” is like trying to keep both of your sides of the see-saw at the top. Somebody’s just going to realize it ain’t happenin’ and get off the damn see-saw). I learned, though, that trying to “sell” at these events was not the point. I was there to build symbiotic relationships with other business professionals. Entrepreneur/author Seth Gobin’s blog solidifies that idea, saying that “the goal of a marketing interaction isn’t to close the sale, any more than the goal of a first date is to get married. No, the opportunity is to move forward, to earn attention and trust and curiosity and conversation.” Essentially, I needed to make these people hopefully like me, and definitely trust me. An event is not a waste of time when it is full of people that you are slowly turning into your own sales force.

Building relationships with your fellow netoworkers and educating them on your product/service is a slow process, but it is a rewarding one. I am not suggesting you abandon all other marketing and sales techniques to fill your social calendar, but there is definitely value to being part of solid, focused groups with like-minded businesspeople. I have gotten lots of exposure, some referrals, and hopefully a few long-term business relationships out of time that would otherwise been spent at home (or worse, at Club TrendyName).

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