Putting a Face on Your Business
If the idea of marketing using face-to-face social networking scares you to death, you are not alone. Many people envision being cornered by a guy in a shiny suit who wants to talk about life insurance, whether they want to or not. But social marketing, even face to face, has evolved beyond the latter-day saints of the Amway movement, and isn't expected to be quite as pushy as it used to be. Consumers today embrace qualities once rare in the business world: trust, honesty and altruism. Companies that get it have the opportunity to gain a foothold in this new marketing environment.
To market in the real world, first make up some business cards that list your services without being too wordy. Then find an appropriate gathering. Watch the local paper for Better Business Bureau social meetings, professional organization meetings, look for entrepreneur's club meetings or networking club meetings, attend conferences, seminars and conventions for nearly any kind of business. And then be social. Shake hands, be pleasant, mention what you do, gauge interest and hand out your card. Some people will grab a web guy by the lapels and pour web troubles right into his lap. That is what we call a sales opportunity, and it happens a lot. Don't push for a sale unless you're a good salesperson. Instead, offer the best advice you can or talk about alternative ways to handle the problem. By offering intelligent solutions, you come away with a walking endorsement for your character. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. So is trust. By not selling your services, you may earn a customer who feels comfortable bringing his business to you and feels he can trust you to be fair and honest.
If you're comfortable making presentations, develop a good one on a related subject and look for opportunities to speak. Professional organizations often offer opportunities to dinner speakers, but if you can't get on the rotation via application alone, offer to be a last minute fill-in for cancellations, or to make your presentation to the board so they can gauge the relevance and value before making a decision. Subjects that will always be hot presentation fodder are web security and enterprise software solutions. You won't be able to sell your services during the presentation, but stick around for face-to-face social networking afterward, and make your presentation available online to the group - with your contact information embedded, of course.
A good marketing plan is an assault on all fronts. Utilize the web, generate publicity, and get out there and meet the neighbors. Using face-to-face social networking as a marketing tool is all about public perception and great customer relations.