All salespeople have tried to grow sales with local networking events. Many organizations utilize these events to bring awareness and drive sales. It’s a strategy that truly works.
Sam Edwards is the Chief Marketing Officer of SEO.co. It’s a content marketing and link building agency based in Seattle. He’s been in the digital and marketing space for the past 10 years and now he’s focused on hosting marketing events to get more clients on the sales side. Sam has experience working with TEDx talk and has written for Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, and other large publications. Through this work, he’s developed his teaching side and helps local communities build their own stories and plans.
Sam has a meet-up group with approximately 400 members. Another he’s affiliated with has over 300 and a third has close to a thousand members. Sam’s group has an average attendance of about 50 – 100. They have an upcoming event this February 5th that’s slated for over 120 people. Typically, the idea of going to a networking event right after work isn’t that appealing to people who work 9 to 5 jobs. Sam’s group met that challenge by creating events that are more like fun outings so people were excited to attend, even after a long day. That’s how they were able to obtain and retain the number of people coming month after month.
Their very first event was agency-sponsored. That agency believed in their idea and wanted to look further into what Sam was doing. They spent $300 for the event and it was focused on an industry-specific topic about how to use the paid SCM data to influence the organic SEO strategy for search marketing. That event cost them $300 but they made eighteen thousand dollars.
There are three main things you need to ensure when setting up a networking event.
People have their guard up when listening to a presenter. It’s after the presentations that everyone lowers their guard, especially when it’s time for the after-party and everyone is going to the bar for drinks. People tend to relax in that environment and it’s then you can start a conversation.
When talking to people, just talk, no pitching. People will see what you have to offer through talking with you. If they like what they see, they will want to work with you. Focus on building a relationship using organic means instead of trying focusing on presenting a pitch.
Be transparent and honest when you are talking to people coming to your events. If you see the potential client isn’t going to be a good fit early on, be upfront. Don’t take the client just because they’re available. You want to make sure you’re qualifying the people who want to work with you.
Make your events free and organize them to grow through invitation. It takes everyone to help for these events to continue to grow, and that includes previous attendees.
Understand this is not a one and done quick fix. Even if you only have a handful of people coming to your first event, that shouldn’t deter you from planning another one. It takes time for the actual growth to happen. You will experience growing pains before you’re finally able to identify the kind of event that will attract attendance and growth. Event planning takes time and effort to build.
Regardless of how long you’ve worked in your industry, your event still needs quality content to be successful. People won’t see the value of your events if they don’t see the benefits they will gain from attending. Sam makes it a point for his events to have specific themes or content so attendees know exactly what to look forward to.
The easy part is inviting people to their first event but the challenge is getting them to the events that follow. You do that by ensuring that attendees are presented with quality content. This doesn’t just speak to the presentations. It begins the moment they step into the hall, as you shake their hands, give them their gift bags, and prepare for raffles. A lot of effort goes into a quality event, including everything that is built around the actual presentation. Focus on the details that others may overlook.
Whatever industry you are in, try to make your events fun. Create a catchy event title.
Sam’s event last October had a presentation entitled, “The Spooky Tell-tale Signs You Need to Fire or Hire Your Search Marketing Agency.” Ken Shankman from bulkcandystore.com was one of their sponsors. They gave him the plugins and suggested that he dress up as Willy Wonka. The event planners made 65 gift bags for the attendees and a golden ticket was put in one of the gift bags. The recipient of the golden ticket won the opportunity to visit his candy warehouse for a tour. It was a fun giveaway and it turned out great. This event not only had great content in the presentation but the giveaway made it more exciting and fun. Pictures were posted to their social media circle and meetup groups after every event. Seeing the fun the attendees had at the October event generated excitement in the following months. People who didn’t go in October did not want to miss out on the fun again!
No one wants to feel like they could miss out on a really fun networking opportunity and a great session. Whether it’s a window washing company or a financial institution, you can create themes, presentations, and giveaways around those industries that are creative and have a lot of energy. If you have sponsors, a win-win opportunity comes from inviting them to offer a prize. They get marketing at the event and another prize adds to the excitement.
People are more inclined to listen to sessions that are energetic and fun so make that a big focus in the planning. Think about what will maintain attention and interest.
Location is important if you want to grow sales with local networking events. You can start looking within your community for businesses that will allow you to host free events at their location. Sometimes you can negotiate with owners or managers to host events as a sponsor. Sam makes events free as an incentive to attend. Look for places that are eager to help grow the community. These could even be co-working spaces and event spaces. Local coffee shops also host events for a small cost. Some restaurants may allow an event to come in on a slower night with the promise that attendees will purchase meals.
You also have to consider the environment in which you’re building the event. Don’t choose an off-putting location because that could affect the ambiance you’re trying to create for your event.
Sam uses LinkedIn and Meetup as his main platforms to invite people to his events. Creating a group on meetup allows you to send an invitation to a group of people that are in similar businesses and industries.
People want to be involved especially in an event that’s similar to the industry they’re working in. This is how you can effectively build your group.
Sam likes LinkedIn for its outreach strategy. In the search bar, type in the industry you want to focus on. Once the results show up, you will see job content and more. You can click on these people and send them the same text you use for Meetup invitations. Include information about the event and a link to register. This way, you get to build a connection. It takes time to see results but these events are about building long-term relationships with people. This is the beauty of organic personal outreach.
What it comes down is, just be the real you, transparent and honest.
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Donald is the host of the popular sales podcast,"The Sales Evangelist". He is the founder of The Sales Evangelist Consulting Firm where he helps small companies develop killer sales process to scale their business and increase growth.Donald is also an award-winning speaker, sales trainer, and coach. He's a big fan of traveling, South Florida staycations and high-quality family time. Donald has a belief that “anyone” can sell if they have the desire and receives the proper training.