As a startup solopreneur with few connections I decided to try networking meetings. I went to as many as I could find and guess what… I wracked up my credit card with breakfasts, lunches, fees, etc. I thought I was wasting a lot of money and a lot of time, then something happened.
One week, I started getting clients through referrals from a person I met at a networking group, Tammy of Boljuncic Financial. I have been helping her stay focused, motivated, and define her brand, along with developing a strategic plan of action to move her business forward. She loves networking in the real world and I am fortunate that she ‘loves’ me so much.
I found cheerleaders in a small business owners like, Robin, and Lisa, a client in Karen, and so many wonderful people who are connecting with each other in the real world. Some people are friendly and want to genuinely help others to shine, others are connectors and are passionate about being able to be a resource of introductions between people. Unfortunately, most people are pushing the business card industry to high profits by throwing theirs around and collecting as many as possible. They don’t get much more than a larger card collection out of networking.
I have found a few groups that work
Andrew is a friendly older man who runs a networking group in Coquitlam and has asked me to present to the group a couple of times about topics on social media. My presentations are filled with stats, questions, advice, tips, and ideas so everyone in the room can leave with value. I am fortunate to have met Andrew because he likes to help others shine.
Then there is the super connector – George, he is a passionate networking individual who runs my favourite networking group. This group has a long list of wonderful people who actively connect with each other. The group itself is casual, fun, and entertaining, a great start to my Friday morning. George promotes a healthy referral and networking environment by using technology and leading by example, because he actively connects people on a regular basis.
Then there is Marilyn.
When I first met Marilyn, she reminded me of my grandmother. My grandmother was a remarkable woman, a journalist, a model, a business owner, and actively involved in developing the social organizations in our small town of 2 000 people, in an out of the way place. She was elegance and class all rolled into one. So trust me when I say, that anyone who reminds me of her, has something extra special about them.
For some reason Marilyn and I both wanted to connect and find a way to work together. It took a few weeks, but we finally met for coffee, we were in for a surprise. We started talking and it was like talking to an old friend. I loved her stories of being a single mom in Vancouver, starting a business that she loves, and connecting with people. Then she asked me where I grew up.
I grew up on a mountain and a lake 20 – 30 minutes out of a small city of 2 000 people. Why do I call it a city? Because it was incorporated in 1906, the year my great grandfather built his fancy Sears catalogue house behind my other great grandparent’s home. At the time it was the economic hub where the Shuswap met the Okanagan in BC’s Interior, however, due to the railway being built and a Native Reserve placed around half the town, trade and industry moved south. The city emptied and to this day, Enderby remains the smallest city in the Okanagan.
Considering the size of the town and that a large portion of the population has stayed there, you can imagine my surprise when Marilyn told me she grew up in Enderby a decade before I was born. She went to school with my dad’s cousin and knew a lot of my family’s life long friends. She knew my dad and my dad remembered her and where she lived, I don’t think my dad ever really forgets anything.
We sat and talked about this small town and what it was like living there during two different times. She left for Vancouver around the year my mom’s family came to town and took my mom took her place within the class.
Finding common threads in our story created a stronger connection than trading business cards and giving each other a wave each week. It takes extra effort to be vulnerable enough to ask to meet for coffee and then spend time sharing your story to someone you don’t know. However, once you find that common thread, you build the most important part of connection – trust.
The common thread that I share with Marilyn created a connection that is leading to a project and a strategic partnership between us. I’ve been able to introduce her to a couple of my clients who share the same target market and am hoping together they can find a connection to their shared target market.
Networking in the Real World Works
In a world where everyone is focused on digital connections and getting the largest following possible, it is important to remember that real connection happens in the real world. Using digital marketing to tell your story, develop credibility, and make virtual connections is important, but don’t forget to take the next step by connecting in the real world.
Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, Shannon Peel Marketing, helps Independent Professionals and Small Businesses define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels. Click to find out more: Shannonpeel.com