Sally couldn’t bear to go to another one of those get-togethers. It’s always the same people talking about the same things. She joined to make contacts and find prospects, but it’s become like a bad AA meeting for designers.
I’ve talked to a lot of Sallys. Home-based business folks who joined some industry group in hopes of getting customers or finding leads. Making connections in your industry is one thing, and an important thing. But thinking a room full of your peers will lead to customers is a common misconception.
This may seem obvious. But for a lot of solo entrepreneurs just starting out, it becomes a comfortable place to network. They join an industry group, go to all the meetings, network, eat bad hors d’ oeuvres, and go home with nothing to show for it. Let me stress that these groups are terrific for meeting like-minded people who work in your industry – but not for getting leads, customers, or referrals. For that, you’re better off going to places where your customers hang out.
Where the Customers Are
Now, a lot of these things are closed to vendors. I’m sorry for using the “v-word,” but for the uninformed, you are a vendor. You’re not yet a trusted advisor (which if you’re doing it right, is what you really are and will be for them).
These folks don’t want a bunch of people trying to sell them something while they’re socializing and getting up to speed on the latest developments for their industry. But if you can gain access, and you’re really looking to provide value and help them with their issues, industry shows that target your customers are one of the best places to get leads.
If you are invited, you’d better have some real value to offer. Also, be ready to talk very little, and listen a whole bunch. In some cases, you’ve been given a key to the kingdom, and if you choose to be one of those types, you won’t be invited back.
Know What You’re Looking For
When you join a group or attend events, know what it is you’re after. Knowing in advance, and writing out what your goals are for the group, will help you stay focused. Remember, industry groups for your industry are great for info, involvement, and peer discussion, but not for leads. Know from the get-go if that’s what you want to gain.
If you’re looking for leads and prospects visit groups and shows where your customers are. Go with the intention of finding where their issues are, and listen to what they have to say. Then be ready to offer some advice. Your goal is to be their advisor after all. Why not start out the relationship that way?
Where do your customers hang out? Go find out, and find a way to be invited there.