In last week’s installment of Marketing 101, we learned that the most effective way to do nearly any form of marketing is to get a personal introduction to the editor or marketing manager you want to hire you.
Do you know the best way to get more of those personal connections? You need to get out and meet people. Ideally, in person.
Before you start up, I know — you’re shy. You hate parties.
Think of it this way: You’re going to earn more money just by standing around shooting the breeze with people. Just like those people there on the right, in the picture. There will often be drinks and snacks involved.
That doesn’t look like agony, now does it?
You can do this. And you really want to, because people who do in-person networking, are usually the ones who earn more. It’s just that simple.
Why? The connections you make when you meet people face-to-face are way deeper than those of those Twitter followers you’ve got. Those personal connections will open doors for you and grease those marketing wheels for you, making everything happen easier and faster.
Need a crash course in how to network? Here are the basics:
5 Rules for Networking Success
- Know what you’re looking for. Be ready to answer questions about who your ideal client is. People will want to help you, but they can’t if they don’t know what sort of referrals you want.
- Have a “me” speech. You should have a short, 90-second speech ready that describes the type of writing you do and are looking for. Practice saying it with a friend until it feels conversational and comfortable.
- Ask about them. Writers say they hate networking because they don’t like talking about themselves. But really, you don’t have to say much. Everyone else would love to tell you all about what they do. Ask about their ideal client and how you could help.
- Have fun. Smile! You’re out of your cave and out in the big city having a drink. Project confidence, faking it if necessary. Nobody wants to stay in touch with people who sound desperate and broke.
- Follow up. The real networking begins after you go home from the event. You’ve met people — now it’s time to take that stack of business cards and cement those relationships. Connect in social media to stay in touch, send them relevant articles, send them job leads. Meet interesting people for coffee. Keep the conversation going.
Hopefully, I’ve sold you that in-person networking will not kill you, is actually fun when done right, and should be an important part of your marketing effort to grow your writing income.
Once you’ve got that in your head, the next question is where to network. There are many choices.
7 Good Places to Network
- Casual networking. Chat up those other moms and dads while you’re watching that soccer game. Do they have a business? Who do they work for that might use freelance copywriters?
- Business groups. Check out your local chamber or business association — some are pricey to join while others are quite affordable. Many put on occasional open-house events you can crash. My local chamber puts on a variety of events every month, from casual after-hours get-togethers to sit-down luncheons.
- Regional or national events. Hitting a big-time event such as SXSW, BlogWorld, or SOBCON can give you a chance to meet many people at once, and to meet more big guns in your target industry. Yes, it can be a major financial investment to fly to one of these — but my experience has been that if you work this opportunity, you will grow your business many times more than the cost of that plane ticket and hotel.
- Pro networking groups. BNI is one of the best-known in this category, and I believe the most expensive. Advantage here: You will be the only freelance writer in the group — they only allow one person per occupation in each local chapter.
- Social media in person. My local Linked:Seattle group, for instance, routinely sees more than 500 people turn up at its live events. This is a great way to make deeper connections with those tweeps you hang with online.
- Writers groups. You might be staying away because you think these events will just be a bunch of sad, desperate, starving writers crying into their cheap glasses of chardonnay… but it’s not like that. Growing your network of other writers who know your talents can put you in their downline for referrals when those writers get leads they don’t have time for or that aren’t their speed. They’re also great to know for reality-checking prices and snooping around about whether that prospective new client is a nightmare. I’ve gotten several great clients through attending MediaBistro events.
- Skype calls. I like to book at least one Skype call a week with someone who might help my business in some way. If you don’t live near a major city, this can be a great way to build connections when it’s hard to appear in person. The phone-company people used to say this, but Skype really is the next best thing to being there.
Which type of networking will be best for you? You won’t know until you get out there, experiment, and meet people.
Need more marketing help? Here’s a place where you can get a bunch…