I do a lot of networking. It is a big part of my marketing plan and I set aside not only a budget but also my time, which is even more valuable to me. If I wanted to I could network more than half my week, or maybe more. Today have three meetings, a breakfast meeting, a lunch meeting and an evening event in Toronto. Today I when I’m done, I will have spent 6 hours in meetings, 2 hours in transit and 1 additional hour networking before and after these meetings. That is a full day.
So what do I do when someone says to me, let’s meet for a coffee. Here are my criteria for meetings outside my set marketing time.
Caveat – I am specifically speaking about business meetings. These tips are to help you keep on track for your marketing and not to manage your personal connections.
Know Your ‘Why’
When someone I don’t know asks me for a meeting I start by asking why. I have found when I don’t ask this, I end up in a sales pitch with someone trying to sell me their services. No one enjoys this unless they are actively looking for that service. So I ask, “What would be the focus of our meeting and how do you think we will be able to help each other in business?” If they just want to sell me their wears I usually will indicate I could do a 15 minute call and set a time. Since I work with businesses I need to be in touch but you might not need to even be that gracious, unless you see them as a great referral partner.
When I already know the person, they have more credibility with me and I have more knowledge around what we might be able to help each other with. Depending on my connection with the person I will always try to connect with people I already know. I will do face-to-face meetings when they are good referral partners and phone meetings for others. Be choosy because you do not have time to meet with everyone and everyone will not be able to help you grow your business.
When you are in your meeting, stay focused. Don’t get side-tracked by too many personal tales. You do want to get connected on a personal level but this is still part of your marketing. As if you were purchasing something for your marketing, like a new brochure, you need to take inventory of how much you are spending on it and what the content will be. Take inventory of how much time you are spending in your meetings and know the information you are sharing with people that will help them refer better to you.
Stick with these three principles and you will have focused meetings with credible people and the outcome will be more profitable for you both.