In-person vs. online networking: It's the same party
By Greg Preite
The Digital Advisor
Let's set the scene: Picture yourself walking into an extravagant holiday party. You enter the room and immediately begin to take notice of the attendees — who looks familiar, who doesn't. You might quickly start a conversation with someone you know, or you might just hang out for a while and see what others are discussing before contributing your comments.
When you do begin talking with others, it's probably casual conversation at first and then as the evening progresses, you might enter into a few deeper topics. Chances are that you'll meet a few new people, and when you do you are likely to search for common interests to discuss. As you encounter these new acquaintances, you will probably ask a few questions, learn something about them, and perhaps share an appropriate story. You'll build some rapport, talk for a while, and then probably shake hands and continue to mingle with the crowd, repeating the same routine multiple times within the evening. You take mental notes about the people you meet and perhaps even make arrangements to talk again soon.
You're not specifically there to get business, but you understand that meeting people, building rapport and making new friends are critical aspects of growing your practice. That's why you continue to attend functions, join networking groups and make yourself visible within your community.
Can you accurately measure your ROI on all this networking? The hundreds of hours that you put in this year just meeting and talking with people certainly generated business and referrals, even if you can't put a specific number on the hours invested compared to the income generated.
Today's savvy advisor understands that the same concepts which have worked for decades offline are the same ones that now work online. The Internet party is bigger and never stops, but the basic premise is the same. Here are six steps for translating in-person networking strategies to the screen.
1. Join the party: The easiest, fastest and smartest way to join the Internet bash is with your own website. But here's the key — at the holiday function you attend, you probably wouldn't spend the entire night talking about yourself and the products you sell. So use the same strategy online and avoid being too self-promotional. Instead, use the blog on your website to write short articles on topics that your target audience is truly interested in reading and sharing with their friends.
2. Find multiple venues: If your goal is to become well-known in your local community, you probably wouldn't attend just one event and then wait by the phone for new business to start rolling in. Instead, you'll seek out multiple functions and organizations in which to participate. So why wouldn't you do the same thing online? Use platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and your email to promote the content you created in step one. By doing this, you'll reach a larger audience. 3. Be consistent: Ask yourself this: If you found a great networking group locally, would you attend it consistently or just once in a while? You already know that if you want to build credibility, you must have consistent visibility. The same rules apply online. One blog article every two months or one LinkedIn post per month is not enough visibility to convert your effort into profitability.
4. Commit: If you show up at the functions for a while but then disappear, chances are that you've done nothing but waste your time. You'd probably expect to show up at a networking event consistently for 6-12 months before you finally had built enough rapport to build new business opportunities. Once again, the same social rules will apply online and offline.
5. Have realistic expectations: It's doubtful that you would expect to land that million-dollar client after attending local Chamber of Commerce or rotary functions for a month or two. You understand that relationships take time to build. Make sure you adapt the same attitude and expectations with your social media strategy as you do for your face-to-face networking strategy.
6. Don't use time as an excuse: You probably don't have the time to attend networking events, you make the time. Your social media campaign is no different, as you'll need to carve out the time for it. However, one advantage that social media has over personal networking is that you don't always need to be the one doing the work. You can leverage your time by outsourcing the work or assigning it to someone in your office.
Many advisors are already developing their digital presence as they recognize that the Internet is an effective and viable tool to reach new clients, maintain contact with existing clients, and generate referrals through information sharing. If you're not participating in the world's largest networking event, then it may be time to get yourself dressed up and join the party. In the grand scheme of ROI discussions, the one cost you'll never be able to calculate is the amount of business lost by not attending.
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