Meetups are getting so popular that even the White House has joined the act, hosting the first White House Tech Meetup this month as part of its TechHire Initiative. The Meetup gathers organizers from around the country who manage development of coding boot camps, startup weekends, tech Meetups and other efforts to connect technology workers and entrepreneurs with business resources. As this illustrates, even in today’s high-tech environment, face-to-face meetings play an important role in forging business relationships. Here are five ways entrepreneurs can use face-to-face interaction to promote their business.
Your Elevator Pitch
Your most fundamental promotional tool for entrepreneurs is the elevator pitch: an introduction brief enough to inject into a short conversation. Sales strategist Jill Konrath says that an effective pitch focuses on your listener’s needs rather than trying to impress them. When identifying your line of work, include a description of whom you help and what you help them do. For example, a PR consultant targeting a specific niche might say, “I’m a marketing consultant who helps startup technology companies use social media to make more sales.” Make your pitch more engaging by working it into a story, and be prepared to follow up by exchanging contact information.
Local Business Meetups
A primary local venue for promoting your startup is your chamber of commerce. Quarter Roll Financial Entertainment publisher Mike Bowman explains that many chambers give members opportunities to deliver introductory presentations. He also suggests hosting after-hours chamber networking events, on your own or in partnership with other startups. You can extrapolate from this strategy by organizing your own networking events or even an ongoing club.
Trade shows are especially suited for face-to-face B2B promotion. Skyline Exhibits Director of Customer Engagement Mike Thimmesch provides a valuable checklist and timetable for planning your trade show attendance. He recommends you start preparing and setting your objectives six months before a show. Another step he suggests taking early in the planning process is selecting shows that match your target market so you can reserve booth space early. To get the word out about where you’ll be, keep an updated calendar of industry events on your website (example: sealing device and o-ring manufacturer Apple Rubber’s trade shows and events page). Use directories of trade shows such as Trade Show News Network to locate additional events where you can reach out to your target market.
Most forms of face-to-face promotion focus on one prospect at a time, but public speaking has the advantage of connecting you with large groups at once. Business writer Lee Polevoi says that when using public speaking to promote your business, it’s important to lay a foundation by doing background research on your target market and where they assemble so you can contact organizers and offer guest speaking services. Another preliminary step Polevoi recommends is preparing marketing material you can send out to prospective audiences, display at the presentation and distribute during the event. Use question-and-answer sessions to connect with your audience, focus on exchanging contact information, and follow up with a post-event promotion.
A natural complement to public speaking is using seminars for promotion. Bestselling seminar strategist Fred Gleeck says entrepreneurs should focus on delivering high-quality content during seminars in order to motivate attendees to return for repeat business. He also stresses the importance of explicitly inviting them to your next event.