A few weeks back I had an interesting conversation with a fellow new mum virtual assistant. She was complaining about how tough it was to get childcare so she could go to networking meetings – thus creating a vicious cycle of not having enough money to be able to get out there and get some more work. It galvanised me into sharing a little secret:
Even before having the baby, my last networking event was probably, um…three years ago?
Okay, now for some people networking will work really well, they will enjoy doing it, they’ll get a buzz out of getting up at some ungodly hour in the morning. Some VAs swear they get all their business from it, it’s the cornerstone of their business. Even in this digital age, face to face networking still scored second place on the “top ways to promote your virtual assistant business” question on the UK VA Survey v6. There is no doubt it works for some people.
However, I’m not one of those people. In the early days of my business, I did lots of networking. My bag bulged with business cards. I faithfully followed up and built relationships. I developed elevator pitches, handed out thousands of business cards, focused on selling “through the room”, tried different types of groups… But to this day, I have never recouped on the time and money I invested. And I’m a marketeer – I should know better than to throw good money after bad. Unless you can measure the return on investment (ROI) of any marketing activity, you might as well be burning pound notes.
But I was curious as to what I was doing wrong – because so many VAs insisted they got business out of it, where was I missing out? But on questioning them further, it seemed they just weren’t measuring it properly.
- Membership fees: Range from £100-£500/year.
- Breakfast: £10/week.
- Your time: 2-3 hours/week for the meeting + time to follow up leads.
That equates to £1,000/year in actual costs, even discounting their own time. Were they really bringing in £100+ worth of business from each meeting? (If anyone is doing this, please get in touch, because I want to learn how!)
Or let’s say it’s less of an investment… It might just be a £30 lunch over 2 hours – that’s still £30 which you could have spent on Facebook ads (reaching 50,000 people) or printing postcards (50 of them) or buying a targeted marketing list (30 targeted contacts) rather than meeting maybe 20 other people who are only there because they know they have to network in order to get any business and stuffed themselves into a suit in order to hone their elevator pitch on you…
So firstly, there’s money draining out of your business by attending these events, but there’s also time draining out your business. If you have a limited resource, you need to make it go as far as possible. Therefore, if you have limited amounts of time, you need to spend it in the most effective way.
What would happen if you committed the same amount of time and money to other forms of marketing as you do to networking? I guarantee, you would get amazing results. And you won’t even need to leave your desk to do it.