Face-to-face networking -- you know, where you meet real people and actually talk with them -- is harder, says Lillian Bjorseth. But, she continues, that traditional style of networking "is so much more effective" than emails, tweets and other types of e-marketing that may or may not get read.
The primary benefit is the instant feedback you get when you deliver your marketing message in a live networking session.
Bjorseth, president of Duoforce Enterprises Inc., Lisle, is quick to agree that "it's easier to sit at a computer and type a (marketing) message. But that doesn't mean someone will read your message or understand it."
Conversely, you'll know right away whether your message resonates with a conversation partner at a live get-together.
"If I furrow my brow, shake my head 'No' or fold my arms, that lets you know that I may not be understanding your message," Bjorseth says. "Over half of a listener's response comes through body language."
Those who know Bjorseth -- she has been helping business owners connect with prospects and referral sources for more than 20 years -- won't be surprised by her focus on face-to-face networking. Yet Bjorseth also has a significant LinkedIn presence, and the Greater Chicago Networking Extravaganza which she co-founded and which will have its 11th annual meeting next month has a LinkedIn sibling.
In fact, Bjorseth says, many LinkedIn groups are trying local meet-ups -- a good thing, she believes. "We need to know each other before I'm comfortable referring someone."
A big part of success at face-to-face marketing is knowing how to start a conversation.
"Never open with a 'yes' or 'no' question," Bjorseth says. "Ask open-ended questions so people have to respond with more than one word.
"Don't ask, 'Is this your first time here?' Ask 'Why did you choose to come to this meeting?'"
Listen to the answer and respond appropriately. "One way to put people at ease is to talk about them and their business, not about yourself," Bjorseth says. With any luck at all, you'll pick up information that will be useful -- if not at the moment then in a follow-up contact.
"I espouse relationship building," Bjorseth says. "Tell me what you do, for whom and where you find your customers." Armed with that information, you can drop in appropriate nuggets about your own business as the conversation rolls.
There's nothing wrong with email or phone follow-ups to networking connections, Bjorseth says, especially if you suggest an hour over coffee to extend your new relationship or forward a referral.
There's nothing wrong with email marketing, either -- although our company's experience is that email blasts, newsletters and similar tools are much more effective when they are sent to people who know your name. That's another benefit of face-to-face networking.
•Jim Kendall welcomes comments at JKendall@121MarketingResources.com.
© 2012 121 Marketing Resources, Inc.