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Holiday Networking

by Robert Middleton

Let's put one myth to rest forever: The Holidays are a bad time to market your business. I want to suggest that the Holidays are the BEST time to market your business - especially if you're a service business owner. Why? Because your best overall marketing tactic is networking and networking is a natural over the Holidays.

In the past week I've gotten three invitations to Holiday parties that are business-oriented. No doubt I'll get a few more in the weeks to come. What a great opportunity to meet old friends, clients and associates, discuss how the year went and share your goals for the coming year. So how can you take advantage of Holiday networking? Here's a few tips.

1. Accept all invitations. Well, most invitations. Remember that this opportunity to meet with so many people won't come around again for another year.

2. Go to the party prepared. Bring plenty of business cards and a pen. Make it a goal to make substantial connections with at least half a dozen people. What's a substantial connection? A one-on-one talk that's ten minutes or more.

3. There are two types of people you'll connect with at a party (no, not drunk or sober) - people you know and people you don't know. For those you know, ask sincerely how they are and how business has been this year. For those you don't know, be prepared with your "Audio Logo," - "I help individuals in companies get more organized so that they're more productive and less stressed." Don't label yourself - "I'm a personal organizer."

4. Spend more time asking questions and listening than talking. This is really THE KEY to effective networking at parties. "How has business been going? -How have the changes at Apple Computer affected your consulting? - What are your plans for growth in 1998? - What kinds of clients are you looking for these days?"

5. Have a strategy for staying in touch. What good does it do if you connect with all these people and they never hear from you again? Don't fall into the rut of suggesting you should get together for lunch sometime. Instead, if appropriate say, "You know I have something I think you'd enjoy receiving. I'm doing a new newsletter every quarter on HR issues for managers. If you give me your card I'll put you on my list."

6. Follow-up after the party, if appropriate. Personally I think thank you notes are a little much. "Great seeing you at the party... blah, blah...) But if some topics come up that indicated there was a reason to talk further, give them a call in a few days with a very specific purpose: "Alice at the party you talked about some of the challenges in getting projects completed within budget. I have some ideas that you might find useful..."

7. Keep an open mind. If you're in the right place at the right time you could make some very profitable business connections. If nothing happens right now, at least you've sowed some seeds for the future.

8. Don't drink or eat too much. Well you knew that already, but I couldn't resist. Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. Got any parties you'd like to invite me to?

Robert's web site is a comprehensive resource on marketing for Independent Professionals.

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