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ShayB

Debate about networking vs. marketing

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I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, FYI. I think the points made for either side would be interesting to read, though.

Which is better:

  1. A networking group that costs $600 a year to join (paid all up front). Around 35 members, with a wide array of services: hair dresser, attorneys, dentist, etc. You meet once a week. Assume no other costs are involved, except perhaps business cards.
  2. Taking $600 and put it into marketing.

Over the course of one year, which do you think would be the better investment, and why?

If you chose Option 2, what would you invest in?

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28 minutes ago, ShayB said:

I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, FYI. I think the points made for either side would be interesting to read, though.

Which is better:

  1. A networking group that costs $600 a year to join (paid all up front). Around 35 members, with a wide array of services: hair dresser, attorneys, dentist, etc. You meet once a week. Assume no other costs are involved, except perhaps business cards.
  2. Taking $600 and put it into marketing.

Over the course of one year, which do you think would be the better investment, and why?

If you chose Option 2, what would you invest in?

It would depend entirely on if the other people in the group are serious prospects for your service. And social selling in groups like this is far more complicated than handing out cards. You have to prove that you are an authority on your subject, and you have to individually find out if there is any need for what you do. 

It would also matter if your service needs to be sold individually or if it can easily be sold online.

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1 minute ago, Claude Whitacre said:

It would depend entirely on if the other people in the group are serious prospects for your service. And social selling in groups like this is far more complicated than handing out cards. You have to prove that you are an authority on your subject, and you have to individually find out if there is any need for what you do. 

It would also matter if your service needs to be sold individually or if it can easily be sold online.

I agree. I ran a networking group with almost 500 members for years, so I'm aware of the nuances. Much more than just showing up and throwing biz cards at people. :D 

Thank you for your input! I appreciate the perspective. :) 

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I don't care what the question.  To me networking beats marketing. Always. However - buying into a group isn't my flavor.  There are so many advantages to "face-to-face".  One of the best is mouth to mouth referral. If you can generate good mouth to mouth -- you've got the best free advertizing on the planet.  Marketing -- a faulty ad and your returns aren't even short term. 

However, if your concern is offline, Chamber of Commerce is almost free to belong to and a lot of prominent business people of all fields network via that organization. 

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14 hours ago, HeySal said:

I don't care what the question.  To me networking beats marketing. Always. However - buying into a group isn't my flavor.  There are so many advantages to "face-to-face".  One of the best is mouth to mouth referral. If you can generate good mouth to mouth -- you've got the best free advertizing on the planet.  Marketing -- a faulty ad and your returns aren't even short term. 

However, if your concern is offline, Chamber of Commerce is almost free to belong to and a lot of prominent business people of all fields network via that organization. 

I do feel that networking is better. Not sure if going with a group is my best bet at the moment. For something like what I do (not something that appeals to the general public), closed groups can be a bit of a luck of the draw kind of thing.

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Like Sal, I don't care for the concept of buying into a networking group, so how about Option #3? With this option, you build your own network, which overlaps the networks of those in your group.

For example, over the years I've developed relationships with other local business people who are mission critical to my success. They are the only businesses I purchase products and services from and they continually refer business back to me (and I refer to them of course). They have an in-depth understanding of my needs, as I do theirs - and trust me, the only folks in my network are the absolute best at what they do. 

There's no buy in - just long-term, reciprocal benefits from leveraging not only my own network, but each of theirs as well. Additionally, it's better controlled because you're not limited just to anyone who could afford to pony up the annual fee. 

You can't buy business relationships - those are grown over the years and are far more valuable than simply marketing your business. 

 

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37 minutes ago, BIG Mike said:

Like Sal, I don't care for the concept of buying into a networking group, so how about Option #3? With this option, you build your own network, which overlaps the networks of those in your group.

For example, over the years I've developed relationships with other local business people who are mission critical to my success. They are the only businesses I purchase products and services from and they continually refer business back to me (and I refer to them of course). They have an in-depth understanding of my needs, as I do theirs - and trust me, the only folks in my network are the absolute best at what they do. 

There's no buy in - just long-term, reciprocal benefits from leveraging not only my own network, but each of theirs as well. Additionally, it's better controlled because you're not limited just to anyone who could afford to pony up the annual fee. 

You can't buy business relationships - those are grown over the years and are far more valuable than simply marketing your business. 

 

I love this idea. Thank you. :) 

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For four years I paid $679 a month to be in a Mastermind group with 12-15 other members (each paying the same amount). We met once a month and we all worked on one member's business. The first couple of years, it more than paid for itself. But after a couple of years, I was mostly going because I shared similar interests with the group. and exceptional group of business owners. 

It was part of the Dan Kennedy group. Once a year about 1,000 business owners would each pay $1,500 to go to a three day event. Lots of speakers. Lots of money changing hands. One of the members and I shared a room at the hotel, and he told me that every year, he would get enough high paying clients that he had to do no other prospecting all year. He provided video marketing and production services. I used him myself on a few projects.

Anyway, the single best group to network with (I have found) are people attending a large event in their niche (even if it's just business owners), if they have paid handsomely to be there. The 1,000 people that each paid $1,500 for a three day marketing event? Those people are there to spend money to build their business. You cannot get a more qualified group of prospects together.

Half of my paid speaking gigs came from casually meeting these attendees.

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8 hours ago, MikeTucker said:

In the specific case where a person is operating on a very strict budget and can afford only one option, it seems to me that networking would be the very obvious choice?

What my concern in Shay's matter was the small amount of clients she wants/needs annually. If there's growth potential besides what she can handle on her own, a mass networking strategy might be good - but if there's no way to offset the work in ways that she can take a lot more clients than that, she doesn't want to get into it too heavily, especially investment-wise. 

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Good point, a floor and a ceiling.  If you don't need or can't handle too much, don't do it!

In my experience, most people who are in the process of building a business need more networking-type activities, not less-- so my default reaction is to say, "Go out and meet a lot more people!"

I am also a big believer in paying for the right to meet those people, whether it's a club, or a networking operation, whatever-- It helps make sure you're investing your business-building time with people who aren't financially broke!

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14 minutes ago, MikeTucker said:

It helps make sure you're investing your business-building time with people who aren't financially broke!

LOL - that depends on the field you're in, too. Who is important to your business solely depends on the business. I got my best gold prospecting info from a mountain hermit who took a shine to me watching me climb a 13,500 ft mountain with only my dog along with me.  

Each endeavor takes some analysis of who can be useful to the business and in what way.  I would never bother networking with a financial analyst who was not living fairly large, but in earth science fields, many of those with the best info, techniques and knowhow aren't those who are in it for the bucks. Networking to me isn't just about getting clients. It's about learning and teaching, and getting to know the varied publics in the field. 

That said, when networking for clients, yeah, you want them to have some bucks to throw.  But I think limiting networking to client shopping actually limits you in a lot of ways. 

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Thanks for all of the replies. It helps a lot.

I can see the advantages of both networking and marketing. Yes, I really only need 20 clients a year (max), but could expand by hiring people, and I have that plan in place.

Just not sure how quickly I want to grow. I'd like those 20 clients spaced out, not all 20 at once. :D 

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6 hours ago, HeySal said:

LOL - that depends on the field you're in, too. Who is important to your business solely depends on the business. I got my best gold prospecting info from a mountain hermit who took a shine to me watching me climb a 13,500 ft mountain with only my dog along with me.  

Not to dismiss your excellent points, but this seems to me like it is the exception, rather than the rule?  Focusing on what we can control and giving ourselves the best percentage chance for success means going to the place where your "X" is.  In the case of being a rockhound, it is no doubt the less-traveled places of the world!  But for someone trying to decide out to grow their business on a budget, I think the default answer should probably be making solid human connections with potential customers?

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5 hours ago, ShayB said:

Thanks for all of the replies. It helps a lot.

I can see the advantages of both networking and marketing. Yes, I really only need 20 clients a year (max), but could expand by hiring people, and I have that plan in place.

Just not sure how quickly I want to grow. I'd like those 20 clients spaced out, not all 20 at once. :D 

Is there no way you could allocate part of your "advertising" budget to making connections, and part of it to a semi-passive marketing campaign?  Both are quite useful in their own way.

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1 hour ago, MikeTucker said:

Not to dismiss your excellent points, but this seems to me like it is the exception, rather than the rule?  Focusing on what we can control and giving ourselves the best percentage chance for success means going to the place where your "X" is.  In the case of being a rockhound, it is no doubt the less-traveled places of the world!  But for someone trying to decide out to grow their business on a budget, I think the default answer should probably be making solid human connections with potential customers?

Yes, my field is a little out there.  You might say that I'm out standing in my field, too. :lol: 

However - while my example may be extreme, what I was getting at was that networking isn't always solely about finding customers. It's about ingraining yourself in you target community.  One aspect of networking is to find people who have experience in one aspect of your field to interview for blog material. You rub shoulders with the experts (and sometimes actually get to know and like each other), and it elevates your own stature in your market's eyes. You get great material to feed viewers (read: prospective clients), SEO juice, etc...........yet they probably aren't the people that you're going to enlist as clients.  

So actually, my examples may seem extreme, but the same principle holds true for any field, even though the "off the beaten path" associates aren't always quite so colorful. 

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On 3/22/2017 at 2:06 PM, Claude Whitacre said:

For four years I paid $679 a month to be in a Mastermind group with 12-15 other members (each paying the same amount). We met once a month and we all worked on one member's business. The first couple of years, it more than paid for itself. But after a couple of years, I was mostly going because I shared similar interests with the group. and exceptional group of business owners. 

It was part of the Dan Kennedy group. Once a year about 1,000 business owners would each pay $1,500 to go to a three day event. Lots of speakers. Lots of money changing hands. One of the members and I shared a room at the hotel, and he told me that every year, he would get enough high paying clients that he had to do no other prospecting all year. He provided video marketing and production services. I used him myself on a few projects.

Anyway, the single best group to network with (I have found) are people attending a large event in their niche (even if it's just business owners), if they have paid handsomely to be there. The 1,000 people that each paid $1,500 for a three day marketing event? Those people are there to spend money to build their business. You cannot get a more qualified group of prospects together.

Half of my paid speaking gigs came from casually meeting these attendees.

I’ve always wanted to attend a GKIC event, but I’ve never attended events of any kind because I’m so socially awkward. I’ve joined my local Chamber and other local groups to get backlinks, but I’ve never been able to get myself out the front door when the days come for the meetings. Some of us choose marketing over networking because we just don’t have the chops to make networking worthwhile. 

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Very interesting to look back on this thread almost a year later. :)

I do think the type of business you're in plays a big factor. If you have a biz that is very narrowly defined and selective, generalized networking may not be the best answer. Something that appeals to the masses, so to speak, might be a better candidate for a networking event/group. This is especially the case if the members have businesses that would be great for advertising in there place of business. For example, if you have a hair styling salon or a restaurant owner as members, there could be a way to advertise your biz through those channels.

One hair salon I know of has a big book of business cards for clients to browse through as they wait. (Think of a large photo album-type binder.) The cards for other group members are in there, and each member gets one page of cards. There are about 30 pages to browse through, and it works. (I've seen it first hand as I've waited to get my hair cut.)

On the other hand, if you only need 20 clients to make your whole yearly sales goal, $600 might be perfect to reach out to enough people in an impressive way to make your sales target. :) 

If you aren't comfortable networking, however, then you shouldn't force yourself to do it. You'll hate it, and you'll dread every event.

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18 hours ago, Robert Broome said:

I’ve always wanted to attend a GKIC event, but I’ve never attended events of any kind because I’m so socially awkward. I’ve joined my local Chamber and other local groups to get backlinks, but I’ve never been able to get myself out the front door when the days come for the meetings. Some of us choose marketing over networking because we just don’t have the chops to make networking worthwhile. 

Hi Robert!  

On 3/20/2017 at 6:45 AM, ShayB said:

A networking group that costs $600 a year to join (paid all up front). Around 35 members, with a wide array of services: hair dresser, attorneys, dentist, etc. You meet once a week. Assume no other costs are involved, except perhaps business cards.

With this kind of networking, I am with you.  Sadly, I too hate being in front of people.  I have a whole handbook of excuses as to why I can't meet people in public.. LOL, seriously!  However, don't limit yourself to networking offline.  Most of my networking is done online and I have met a lot of amazing people this way.  

Marketing is fun when you work outside the box.  This last week I have been testing some new methods and so far, getting great results!  I haven't pushed very hard, but one thing that has come to my attention, is most businesses are tired of the same ol' marketing platforms.  

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On 3/13/2018 at 2:20 AM, Robert Broome said:

I’ve always wanted to attend a GKIC event, but I’ve never attended events of any kind because I’m so socially awkward. I’ve joined my local Chamber and other local groups to get backlinks, but I’ve never been able to get myself out the front door when the days come for the meetings. Some of us choose marketing over networking because we just don’t have the chops to make networking worthwhile. 

I think that in terms of "Internet Marketing", the concept of "Networking" has been bastardized, much like the concept of what a "JV" or JV Partner" really is. 

I say that because I would NEVER refer a client to someone in a "Group" I joined, that I didn't have an ongoing relationship with. I tend to focus on "Lifetime Customer Value", which means that if a client needs a referral to someone, I'm going to point them in the direction of someone I trust explicitly - not because they just happen to be in my group. 

My clients and those in my network depend on me to provide them with sound advice/referrals. and if I drop the ball, I'm going to harm that relationship. I'm not going to risk that with unknown/untested members of a group I might have joined. Which is probably why I NEVER join groups like that - while there might be some short-term benefits, in the long-term, it's generally a losing proposition. 

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