Networking is single-handedly one of the most important strategies for connecting with prospects and maintaining long-term business relationships. But why is that?
Aside from the obvious human preference for face-to-face communication that allows us to more closely “plug-in” to someone’s presence and personality, networking enables us to essentially expand our circle of prospects in a friendly, more intimate way that’s less about the commonplace sales spiel and more about building long-term relationships with individuals—whom because of your connection—might eventually use and/or spread the word about your business’s products or services.
It’s true—attending networking events as a small business owner can provide you with invaluable opportunities that can last indefinitely, so long as you stay in contact with your networking associates. If you aren’t already doing so, we highly recommend it as part of your marketing strategy.
Of course, it’s nearly impossible to network with all of your existing customers and the extensive pool of potential prospects you’d like to meet via traditional face-to-face networking. But there’s another traditional networking method that works just as effectively while connecting with a much broader expanse of people: printed newsletters.
Here’s why sending a monthly direct mail newsletter is as close to traditional in-person networking as you can get (but with a much more extensive reach):
While it’s virtually impossible to make eye contact and shake hands on a regular basis with all of your customers and prospects, printed newsletters remain the most direct way of communicating. When designed well and branded with your logo and voice, a monthly printed newsletter easily becomes the “face” of your business, and the most ideal way to greet your recipients short of knocking on doors.
Unlike nearly every other marketing strategy, the direct delivery of your newsletters to your recipients’ mailboxes guarantees that you get seen and acknowledged, just as if you approached them at a networking event. But beyond the sheer visibility factor, the tangibility of printed newsletters allows you to make physical contact with your recipient, similar in many ways to a handshake. Just as if you approached them in-person at a mixer, you’ve now made direct contact in a way that cannot be deleted, ignored, clicked off of, or scrolled past. For these reasons, printed newsletters are the most definitive way to ensure your “face” and brand is making a direct connection.
When done right, printed newsletters are a very casual and friendly, yet informative way to reach out, say hello, and start a dialogue. The average consumer is bombarded with interruptive sales emails, gimmicky social media posts, and worthless junk mail on a daily basis. But if you don’t reach out consistently, you stand to lose everything—and not just your prospects.
For each month they don’t hear from you, approximately 10% or more of your current customers will lose interest in your business. So what gives? Today’s consumers are looking for more than an email or Tweet in order to stay connected. What they really want is valuable content, delivered in a way that actually reaches them in a non-disruptive manner.
Part of the effectiveness of networking is that it’s rarely all business. The truth is, people tend to do business with people they like. Conversing over coffee or cocktails, you typically exchange interesting tidbits, jokes, wisdom, details relating to family life and hobbies, and great stories about vacations, weekend itineraries, and more in order to build a rapport with each other.
Through general “storytelling”, you get to know your networking associates better, which soon transforms your relationship to close acquaintances, if not friends. A well-constructed printed newsletter can easily accomplish the same end goal.
By sharing stories not just about your business but about general life (i.e. money-saving tips, household management solutions, self-growth, health, etc.), balanced with great humor and wisdom, you’re connecting with your clients and prospects on a more personal level—in other words, they’re getting to know YOU…the voice behind the business—and wow are you likeable! After all, who else is taking such awesome measures to reach out to their clients and potential clients?
If you’re still on the fence about the networking prowess of printed newsletters, you might be worried that traditional networking embodies something integral that printed newsletters simply cannot match: reciprocity. Networking is effective because of the mutualism it promotes—an atmosphere of “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” Printed newsletters can’t possibly mimic that kind of mutually beneficial exchange…or can they?
Remember: printed newsletters are all about creating a dialogue—a rapport—with your clients and prospects. Because you’re providing valuable information beyond the typical and mundane sales pitch, much of which isn’t necessarily related directly to your business, you’re providing value to your readers. Helping them. Entertaining them. Informing them. For FREE. Who does that anymore, if ever? You do. And that’s why clients and prospects view you as special even before they make a purchase
Maintaining continuous contact with your networking associates is imperative to cultivating your connection. After all, you wouldn’t just meet a person at a networking event once, receive/provide a lead for each other, and consider yourself forever connected to this person thereafter. Solid relationships require the investment of time and communication.
On the same token, unless you’ve sustained continuous contact with your clients and prospects on at least a monthly basis, it’s way too easy to lose them to your competitors, who may have a temporary leg up on you in terms of price, availability, or communication. Printed newsletters are invaluable in the same way face-to-face networking is: by putting yourself out there on a monthly basis in terms of direct communication, conversation, story-telling, value, and consistency, you make yourself and your business impossible to forget.