How can networking events work for you if attendance is still dwindling? If you're not looking at them as a small trade-show where you'll get tons of leads, are they still worth attending?
Here's 3 quick tips to use individualized invitations to markedly increase the value of any event you attend:
Invite referral partners: Stack the room. Your referral partner(s!) will get a little more face-time with you, which puts you at the top of their mind. If they're a networkaholic, they'll appreciate meeting a new group, and on the selfish side you get more kudos so they'll want to do you a favor in-turn. If you received a referral from them, invite them AND pay for their fee to come to the networking event. How's that for a "thank you!" gift? Note, you're not taking them out to lunch -- ask your accountant if you can tag it as an incentive gift for taxes.
Invite prospects: Suddenly you have a reason to reach out to a prospect without giving a sales pitch! This is for them -- right? You can introduce them to your network, and they might get business from it. For you, the networking event becomes an opportunity for a high-touch contact with low pressure. Don't talk about your services unless they mention their interest in your products, but do allow them a chance to get to know you and your other referral partners better. If you have clients or referral partners in the room, someone else may talk them into closing the sale! You have increased your value to the client without doing anything you wouldn't have been doing anyway.
Invite clients: Another opportunity for a high-touch contact, which is excellent customer service and maintains top-of-mind awareness with someone who has already paid you. Talk them up to others, and play matchmaker for them. They're living, walking, breathing proof that you do your work, and do it well. They're an on-the-spot testimonial for your services. They may evangelize you to the group. If you do your 30 second or 1 minute presentation on a service they did NOT purchase (yet) or maybe don't even know you offer, you may just be able to up-sell it to them later.
Work on making it a habit to invite one person to every networking event you attend -- or invite 3 people to the QED luncheons to get $15 off your next luncheon. Shuffle these invites into your normal sales calls, schedule dance cards with referral partners before or after a networking event, and make these invitations a normal part of your ongoing customer service.
Let everyone know how it works out for you--I've been applying these techniques and I like how it has been working out.
For local networking venues see NetworkaholicsAnonymous.org -- and make sure you join us at the QED Networking Luncheons and QED Hudson Valley Business Edge Conference events!