What makes business-to-business networking worth your while?
By Leanne Hoagland-Smith March 5, 2012 8:50AM
Leanne Hoagland-Smith. | Provided photo~Sun-Times Media
Business-to-business networking is how many small business owners and crazy busy sales professionals increase sales. Any day of the work week, there are Chamber luncheons, open houses, formal business to business networking groups, association meetings not to mention the seminars, workshops to webinars. Sorting through these events, attending them, all take time and for some professionals, this is time not well invested.
In December 2005, I wrote an article about the cost of business to business networking. What I calculated was that the average small business owner or sales professional invested about $30,000 a year specific to business to business networking. Here is the basis for that calculation:
• Membership in one Chamber of Commerce, one formal business to business networking group, one industry association and one professional association
• Food costs (breakfast, lunch, dinners)
• Travel costs (fuel costs at that time were around $2.35 gallon)
• Time costs (attending, driving and planning)
Today I am sure that $30,000 investment has increased by at least 20 percent due to fuel costs alone. And this investment does not include any other marketing activities such as tradeshows; writing blogs, articles or columns; updating websites; printing business cards or brochures; giving away promotional items; or to interacting on other social media sites.
Now if the small business owner or sales professional has clients with an average annual value of $1,000, he or she would need to secure 30 new clients minimum every year to just break even with those invested business to business networking dollars.
Unfortunately, as in many marketing expenditures, there is no time devoted to analyzing the results from business to business networking. The attitude or mindset of “if sales are up,” then the marketing efforts are working restricts further analysis.
Proper analysis builds the foundation for predictive analysis. From this data, business resources of time, energy, money and emotions can be better directed to those business to business networking events that generate the greatest return on investment. Without this analysis, business owners and sales people are engaged in the role of Captain Wing It where they spray their marketing actions all over the place and the pray something will stick.
To increase sales begins with attracting attention and building relationships. Business to business networking events are a great springboard for marketing success. With the ever increasing out of pocket costs to the decreasing of available time, asking yourself what makes business to business networking worth my while is one very necessary question to be answered honestly and with the verifiable data. This is not the time to “guess” or “presume.”
My sense is the majority of small business owners, sales professionals and probably C Suite executives have never invested the time to answer this question. I also believe the $30,000 figure noted earlier probably was received with some shock and disbelief. My recent calculations suggest a figure closer to $38,000.
If you wish to increase sales, to improve profitability and to reduce some of those stresses associated with business operations, it just may make sense to analyze these marketing results. Maybe all this business to business networking has you just surviving and not thriving where as one colleague has shared “you are confusing motion with progress and activity with results.”
P.S. Shout Out: The Elk Lodges in Hobart and Valparaiso provide halls for rental and support local community efforts including offering college scholarships.