Face-to-Face Marketing in the Digital Age

Social media is an incredibly convenient way to personalize your brand. It’s one of the best ways we know for small businesses to connect with a target audience, yet it has its challenges. Facebook in particular is overcrowded with promotional content. Facebook’s efforts to control that have made it difficult for brands to engage without spending more and more money to boost and promote their posts.

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There is real value in putting your face to your brand the old-school way—in person. Whether you love it or hate it, embrace it or avoid it, traditional networking is still one of the most effective ways to market yourself and your business.

How effective? That’s up to you. If you have a drawer full of old business cards and hundreds of LinkedIn contacts you’ve never met, you’ve got some work to do. You’re not alone (we have piles of business cards everywhere). Many working professionals approach networking with good intentions, a hit-or-miss strategy and a limited budget of time. That’s why we asked two of Princeton’s most successful networking professionals to share their expert advice.

Peter Crowley is the President and CEO of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce (PRCC), one of New Jersey’s largest and most active networking organizations. Christine Curnan is the Senior Director of Membership & Business Development for PRCC. They plan and host hundreds of networking events a year, both big and small, for every imaginable audience. They spend most of their workdays (and many of their evenings) creating opportunities for people like you to grow their businesses.

Peter Crowley is the President and CEO of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce (PRCC), one of New Jersey’s largest and most active networking organizations. Christine Curnan is the Senior Director of Membership & Business Development for PRCC. They plan and host hundreds of networking events a year, both big and small, for every imaginable audience. They spend most of their workdays (and many of their evenings) creating opportunities for people like you to grow their businesses.

“Making that one-on-one connection with potential clients and with the community is an incredibly important component of your overall marketing strategy. It’s a unique opportunity to cut through all the noise in today’s saturated media environment,” says Peter. “What better way to increase your visibility and spread your brand’s message than by doing it hand to hand, eye to eye, as the face of your company?”

"Networking is all about building relationships. Getting to know someone. Discovering who or what you have in common. Asking questions. Really listening to their answers.  You are there to support each other." 
––Christine Curnan | Sr. Director of Marketing & Business Development, Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce

“Making that one-on-one connection with potential clients and with the community is an incredibly important component of your overall marketing strategy. It’s a unique opportunity to cut through all the noise in today’s saturated media environment,” says Peter. “What better way to increase your visibility and spread your brand’s message than by doing it hand to hand, eye to eye, as the face of your company?”

If you’re not sure where to start, find one or two networking organizations that fit your schedule, your style and your industry, and talk to the leadership of those groups. They should be happy to share their knowledge and offer guidance. Be sure to attend a few of their events before you commit to join. Be selective but keep an open mind, and remember that the most meaningful business relationships are long-term.

Networking Works. Here’s How to Work It.

After we asked Peter and Christine for their top networking tips, the biggest takeaway was clear: Stop selling and start connecting. It’s just that simple.

What’s the first thing you should do when you meet someone new at a networking event?

Christine: Engage with them. Put your phone down. Leave your business card in your wallet. Share stories. Ask questions, not just about their business but about their life, their family, their passions. Relax. And be yourself.

Isn’t the goal of networking to make business connections, not new friends?

Peter: The goal is to build relationships. This is the foundation of networking, and it doesn’t happen in a single exchange. If you’re shaking hands and passing around your business card to everyone in the room, and reciting your elevator pitch to anyone who will listen, you’re not giving yourself the chance to connect with people and establish any kind of real rapport. Ask them questions about their own business. Find out what you can do for them. This is how you begin to build trust.

It’s hard for me to walk into a room full of strangers. Should I bring along a colleague?

Christine: It’s a personal preference. If it helps to get you there, then absolutely. Just make sure your colleague understands you are there to grow your network, and is comfortable networking on his or her own. Politely explain you would like the chance to meet new people.

What if someone is monopolizing all of your time?

Peter: Ending a conversation can be as tricky as starting one. We recommend spending quality time with a handful of people at an event instead of trying to chat with everyone. But sometimes you have to break away. Simply state that you appreciate meeting them and enjoyed talking. You can end by saying something like, “I will catch up with you later.”

What if you have absolutely no interest in a person’s products or services?

Christine: Try to find out if you have something in common with that person, or have any mutual friends or contacts. You never know where it might lead.

Any closing tips?

Peter: Be reliable, be consistent, and follow through. You may want to jot down notes to yourself at the end of a networking event. That way, when you see someone again, you will remember little details about them that show you were paying attention. They’ll feel valued. They’ll know you were listening. Showing up on a consistent basis, and being yourself, is the best advice I can give anyone.

Looking to sponsor your own networking event? Planning to attend a major conference? We can help with all your marketing materials.

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