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They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
And in tough times like these, many business owners are going to local networking events to give their sales and marketing presence a boost.
Business networking events range from casual mingling to structured “speed networking” to high-end wine & cheese soirees and can be a hit-or-miss affair. Sometimes you’re ecstatic because you’ve landed a new client or referral, while other times you’re frustrated because you’ve dished out $10 for a glass of mediocre wine and all you got is a handful of business cards from people you’ll never hear from again.
But how much business do we really get for all the time and money spent on event fees, networking club dues, and pricey glasses of chardonnay?
In other words, how many of us actually track our networking return on investment—our Business Networking ROI?
So Easy, Even a Copywriter Can Do It
Tracking your Business Networking ROI is surprisingly easy to do, even for a mathematically-challenged copywriter like me. All you really need is a spreadsheet program (I’m old-fashioned and use Excel), good follow-through and an easy-to-use format.
Below is a sample page from my Business Networking Spreadsheet:
For example, over the past 6 months, I’ve been to 13 business networking events, spent a total of $222.00 (I tend to go to low-cost affairs) and made $1,375.00 from the projects I got as a direct result of my networking. It may be small-scale, but it still resulted in an impressive 519% ROI.
For example, I find structured events, where everyone briefly presents what they do and what they’re looking for, are good because as I can easily identify good prospects and make sure I talk to them. In more casual events, you run the risk of never meeting potential customers simply because they were networking in another corner of the room.
Another good source are events held by groups outside my industry, as I can promote my services with minimal competition from other writers. For example, at IT events I’ve met web designers whom I have partnered with on projects and who have added my copywriting as a “value-added service” to their company to attract more clients and more lucrative projects.
I also recommend events that include a seminar or guest speaker, so if you don’t meet any good prospects, at least you’ve learned something that you can take away and perhaps apply to your business.
WIP It Good
I also recommend creating a Networking Work In Progress (WIP) list comprised of contacts, status (met for coffee, got a referral) and next steps (invite to an event, contact in 3 months) with specific follow-up dates.
Keeping in constant touch with the people you meet at business networking events can lead to better contacts, more referrals, and hopefully new business.
And it will improve your Business Networking ROI.
Donna Vassallo owns MarketingWorks NY, an award-winning copywriting and competitive research firm. We serve clients of all sizes and industries, providing effective, sales-driven writing that’s “on time and on target” for websites, brochures, taglines, direct mail, e-mail marketing, and more.