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AT&T made an impact with its slogan, “Reach out and touch someone.” And it’s a business mantra that’s every bit as important for our industry as it is for the telecommunications world, especially if done correctly and with some out-of-the-box strategy.
Maybe for AT&T, getting in touch with someone means nothing more than simply picking up a phone. But if that’s the only way you are trying to reach new customers these days, then you are definitely dialing a wrong number.
If you believe “out-of-the-box” networking is just limited to Facebook, LinkedIn and passing out your business card at the local supermarket, then you are indeed working with a very small box. Your box holds a ring; mine holds a refrigerator.
Truth be told, I do use Facebook and LinkedIn for a portion of my networking (which I will explain a little later), but we are all surrounded by endless possibilities when it come to ways of reaching new clients. It’s simply a matter of finding them and using them to your advantage.
ONE: Sports teams
For example, we have found partnering with professional sports teams to be beneficial in driving our business (and “driving” their business). Not only does it give us the opportunity to pick up a sure client (the team), but also gain access to thousands of potential clients. Most sponsorships come with “perks,” in the form of tickets, signage on scoreboards, program ads, and select nights when you can “woo” your good clients and potential clients, often in private suites. Aligning with a local sports team also boosts your credibility. People feel if a major sports team is letting you drive around an athlete that is worth to them millions of dollars in human capital (which we have done with the Boston Bruins), then a level of trust has been forged.
I understand, that for many companies, aligning with the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Lakers is not going to be very cost-effective. But you can bet if you’re based in Ohio, the Toledo Mud Hens would welcome you with open arms when they throw out their first pitch next May. We found working with the Pawtucket Red Sox last season was a budget-friendly alternative to working with the Boston Red Sox.
TWO: Be a joiner
Other means we found to be effective included joining large regional organizations, as well as remembering not to ignore the smaller business universe that’s all around us.
Based just south of Boston, we are involved with the New England Business Travelers Association, but also the local Chamber of Commerce where we are located, and all the smaller Chambers in the cities and towns that surround us.
It’s easy to think that only the large regional associations have clout while the local business groups are populated with the likes of the manager for a nearby Walmart. But you need to keep the mindset, no matter how far out there it may seem, that if the CEO of Walmart ever visits that store, he’s not going to take a cab from the airport. You also can offer to give a speech to a local organization or association. Chances are likely that you have expertise to share.
THREE: Work the lunchroom
Sometimes the best networking is where you least expect it, as in your company lunchroom. Your own company could very well be a mother lode of networking opportunities. For example, maybe one of your target companies is ABC Pharmaceuticals. But if you don’t ask, you’ll never find out that Brenda in your accounting department is married to the brother of the CEO of ABC Pharmaceuticals.