Lots of business people join a network group and do all the right things. They show up early, talk to visitors, stay after the meeting to network, they have meetings outside of meetings. Still they don’t know why they are not getting the referrals that they think they should. We always talk about thinking outside the box, and networking for some is outside of the box. If we take it a step further then your networking group or Chamber you can really have fun. By fun, I really mean making money.
Let’s start by looking at who is in your business group. Most groups have a real-estate agent, mortgage broker, financial advisor, attorney, banker, ad specialty person, and so on. Most people do well from this, but with a little more work you can do better. Do you know what a “contact sphere” is? A contact sphere is a group of businesses that work in your circle. For my home theater business it is anyone who is doing work in million dollar homes, because people who work in million dollar homes usually work in more than one. Those businesses are interior designers, high-end kitchen builders, custom cabinetmakers, custom closet companies, and so on. The way I learned this was like one of those V-8 moments “wow I could have had a V-8.”
I was in California talking to Mike Garrison, an executive director in BNI, and I was telling him how I was giving a home theater bid in this 5 million dollar home in Ladue. While I was waiting for the house manager to show up, I started to talk to the guy working on their stairway banister. The guy owned the company and all they did was handrails. When I say handrails, I’m not talking the straight wooden rail like the one in my home. I’m talking about a 70-foot spiral handrails with the most beautiful stain that you could imagine. The house manager showed up and I told the handrail guy that it was nice to meet him and off I went.
Mike then asked the million-dollar question; “So did you get to have lunch with him?” I said no. “Well did you get his card?” Again I said no, and asked why? And, he said, “Wouldn’t it have been nice if every home this guy was in that he would say ’you really should use Theatrical Concepts they are really great to work with.’” It never occurred to me until that moment that if I were to have developed a relationship with the handrail guy, whether it be a business group or just one-on-one, I could have made a lot of money. All it would have taken was just a few minutes of thinking out side of the box.
For each business, it is different, and for a very few it may not work at all. For me it started by thinking about whom my clients were spending money with. I then developed relationships with all sorts of companies. I found a company that did nothing but clean chandeliers; another was a shade company called Two Blind Guys, and a window tinting company call Pro-Tint. I developed relationships with house cleaning companies, interior designers and pest control guys. Now, I did not look for just anyone, I found companies that my high-end customers were using. I would ask my customers who they were using and if they had a card, I would then call and explain what I was trying to do. Some got it and some did not, but the whole point is that I could have just gone to my monthly or weekly meeting which is only 90 minutes out of my 60 hour work week and been happy with that or I could try to make the other 58.5 hours work for me.
Leland S. Kropp Jr.
Your Constant Contact