Networking has never been my strong suit. As much as I come off as an extrovert, there is a level of discomfort that comes over me in a large group setting. Unless I have a few drinks under by belt and I’m telling jokes, I usually am a bit shy.
I know. Hard to believe.
One of my fellow CEO Roundtable members invited me to a Chamber networking event for East Nashville businesses. I moved to this hip part of Nashville almost two years ago and agreed to join her to see what was going on in my neighborhood. I really wasn’t there to drum up business.
Plus, everyone is out of the office this week, so I needed to get out for a while.
If you don’t feel you can attend a networking event by yourself, then bring a wingman. Wendy was my networking wing woman and was gracious to introduce me to the many contacts she had at the meeting.
One of the first questions everyone asks is, “So what do you do?”.
“Me? I was retired until I got divorced,” gets a chuckle. Then I tell them I own a catering software company.
“What type of food do you cater?”
I then have to explain I’m in the software business. To which they then reply, “Can you help me fix my computer?”.
Any way. After you ask someone what they do, ask a good follow up question I learned years ago: “So who is an ideal client for you?”
I am a big believer in the more people you help, the more people will help you. If you connect with someone and believe they would add value to your contacts, then help them out. In fact, there’s usually a strong correlation between great business people and the quality of the people they can refer to you.
In other words if your first impression of a networking contact is…DUFUS…then chances are anyone he sends your way isn’t an ideal fit. Birds of a feather do flock together.
Now what about business cards? I don’t own any…on purpose.
They only serve as a vehicle for people to capture my info and call and sell me insurance. Yes. I am a cynic. Can’t you tell?
If I meet someone I may want to use in my business, I will ask for their card. Believe me. I am great about calling you, if you have something of benefit to me.
As a general rule, I would never give out a business card unless asked for one.
There is nothing worse than the State Farm agent who uses networking events to blatantly ask for your business, “So who do you have your home and auto policy with? Your brother-in-law? Well here’s my card. Call me if something should change.”
Change. What’s going to change? I don’t think he’ll die soon enough to help you out Mr. State Farm.
I don’t see him divorcing my sister. If he does, I need to buy twice as much insurance, so he can afford to pay alimony and child support and keep my sister from calling me for money.
Like someone has ever kept a card from a line like that. They all end up in a landfill. Unless you live in hipster East Nashville like me. Then the card ends up in a recycling bin.
Personally, I use my book as a business card. If there is someone I meet, like the guy who I met today who owns a pizzeria in East Nashville. I took his card and offered to send him a copy of my book.
Even if he never becomes a client, my book will add value to his life. Maybe he’ll give me a free pie.
Which brings me to another good point. Have you ever thought of writing a book?
Yes. Catering is not sexy, but the fact you wrote a book impresses people. You instantly become the celebrity and person of authority.
I am sure there are lots of other lessons for networking like put a free appetizer offer on the back of your business cards…or avoid getting drunk and making a fool of yourself…
But for now, this is what you get. It’s a good start.
Whether attending informal networking gatherings like your local chamber puts on or joining a formal networking group like BNI, this strategy costs almost nothing to implement.
Just ask clients of mine like Bruce Longmore. He has used his networking/community building skills to build his business. You can do the same.
NOTE: Seats are almost gone!!!!
Last year I put on a full day catering seminar in Baltimore with one of my most successful clients and longtime member, Frank D’Antona with Cantina Mamma Lucia in Baltimore, Maryland. We had to turn people away last year.
Saval Foodservice is sponsoring the event this year. It will be held Monday, May 18, 2015 near the Baltimore airport.
So if you have any interest, please go to www.CateringSeminars.com/baltimore for complete details. Hope you can join us.
Well, that’s all for this issue.
To Your Restaurant's Marketing & Catering Success,
Restaurant Catering Software
P.S. – If you need help growing catering sales, then please go to www.RestaurantCateringSoftware.com and download my free eBook: Cater or Die!
P.P.S. – I make a limited number of time slots available each week for a free Catering Strategy Session with me. (You also get a catering menu critique and free analysis of your website for “Catering Effectiveness”). For complete details and to grab one of the limited spots, please go to:
P.P.P.S. – Please check out my podcast at www.RestaurantCateringSmarts.com
P.P.P.P.S. - Anyone wishing to reprint my articles may do so. Please email me for the bi-line to use for proper author’s credits.