In a small business centric area like New Hampshire, face to face networking is a big part of starting a business. There are plenty of opportunities for anyone to get involved, attend events, and join networking groups. When we moved to NH from California and planted our roots for our digital agency, face to face networking gave us the boost we needed.
We jumped right in and joined the Chamber and a BNI chapter. We met some amazing folks, made great connections and lasting friendships. We still think of networking as a big part of how we’ve grown, but we found there is a downside.
Face to face networking is hard to scale and hard to predict. To scale your referrals you need to spend more time networking, or hire more people to help you network–and you still won’t know what kind of results you’ll get. It’s hard to predict what kind of opportunities you’ll get with face to face networking, because it depends on who is in the room. Networking can bring in great results, but if you rely on networking to bring in the bulk of your business, it can be risky.
What would happen if tomorrow you got sick, injured, or simply burnt out and had to stop networking for a while? Would your business survive? Or would those referrals simply stop because your physical presence wasn’t there to receive them?
Earlier this year, I got burnt out from too much networking. Naturally an introvert, it took a lot of energy for me to be out in front of people for hours every week. I had lost my oomph and I needed a change. And it was scary.
Thankfully, we had started an inbound marketing strategy for our agency, and had built a marketing funnel through our online presence. With blog posts, calls to action, landing pages, email marketing, and a system to back it all up, we had leads coming in that had found us on their own. I could make changes to our strategy, try different things and put in the effort we needed to keep our sales up, all during normal business hours.
Hitting our Target
With our new strategy we have more control over the types of leads we have coming in. When you network with a group, the referrals you receive are usually the people and businesses that your group members already know. So if you are looking for businesses that are outside of their network, it gets really difficult.
Now, we tailor our messages to the types of personas we know will benefit from our services. We focus on the type of persona that we are looking for, and create their buyer’s journey with content. The leads we have coming in through our inbound marketing strategy are people we would have never met through networking, simply because they aren’t within the circles we formerly networked with.
Perfecting our Formula
At the start of each month, we take a look at our efforts and the results from the month prior. The three main categories we look at are traffic, leads, and sales. The more we blog, the more traffic we tend to get. As the quality of our content increases, so will the quality of our leads. And the more we improve our inbound sales process, the more sales we close. By looking at solid numbers, we have more control over how we perform.
We use to say things like, “Oh, well everyone is on vacation this month so that’s probably why our sales are down.” Now we say, “We need to focus on taking better advantage of our traffic by improving our Calls to Action.” or “Let’s write more blogs this month and see how that changes things.”
With our inbound strategy, leads and sales is less of a guessing game, and we know that the amount of effort and thought we put into our strategy will directly correlate to the outcome.
Networking is Still Important
Of course we haven’t given up on networking completely. We still get some of our best leads through our networks, but we no longer rely on it for the majority of our business.
We’ve taken control of our marketing funnel and turned it into something scalable, and we’re so happy we did.