Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Marketing meet-ups and making business oriented social gatherings cost-effective and productive

Posted in social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 18, 2012

I have a colleague and friend with a small but growing marketing operations business in London, who has been striving to build his client base, both in the United Kingdom and Europe and in the United States and Canada. As a part of his business development campaign he has been hosting meet and greet gatherings where professionals can come together to chat and exchange business cards, and look for opportunities to work together to mutual benefit. His goal, of course, is that some of this new business would come directly to his company too and that even when business opportunities were developed that did not directly include his company, he would still gain at least indirect benefit from that. The people involved would remember where they found those business opportunities and think of his company when making marketing operations support referrals. So he has been hosting these events and with an open bar for beer and similar price point beverages – and people come and enjoy themselves and then leave. He has not seen the return on investment from this that he had hoped for and either from direct business leads, or from increased word of mouth value and referrals.

I have attended a few of these events and know they are fun. But the last time I met with my event-hosting colleague I told him that I did not see this as a worthwhile approach for him as a marketing and leads-generation tool. We like to get together to chat whenever he comes to New York and we talked about this over lunch a couple of weeks ago. I remember telling him “I enjoy a free pint as much as anyone, but this is not helping you.” My friend reluctantly but firmly agreed and we left off that part of our conversation with an open question. Meet and greets, or at least face to face gatherings can hold real potential and they can generate real value. But what would be a good Version 2.0 replacement for his less than formal, unstructured gatherings?

I briefly outlined a few thoughts on this at the time and said that I would think some more about it, and I offer this posting as a fuller answer to his question.

• Structure is good for this type of event, that serious professionals show up to participate knowing that whatever else happens, they will at minimum derive the value inherit in what has been specifically planned.
• This may mean bringing in a speaker or a panel of presenters to talk about some topic area of current hot-button importance to the people you would like to draw into attending. Here, presenters and panelists would be given opportunity to make pitches for their own businesses and work and that would provide them with incentive to participate – but they would also and primarily be offering information and insight of direct interest and relevance to the audience present.
• This would be marketed as an opportunity to both learn more about this topic area and to meet with and network with professionals in their fields and for many attendees, in their marketing demographics too – potential clients.
• If refreshments are served this would be a matter of offering the services of a cash bar or similar where attendees would buy their own. An open bar at an unstructured event is simply an offer of free drinks and some casual conversation while so indulging.
• Collect business cards from everyone attending, for a raffle – with the prize a free consultation session on, in this case marketing operations and improving on them for the winner and their business.
• Everyone providing a card would be contacted in follow-up and this is a place where a hosting business-moderated and owned social networking group might be an effective way to continue the conversation. Social media follow-through is very important here.
• And I stress with this point in mind that any event of this type should be developed and viewed as a starting point for further conversation and interaction, and not as a goal of some sort in and of itself. These events should simply be starting points – beginnings for further and more focused marketing and sales efforts and for more sustaining value sharing.
• Ultimately, the Version 1.0 structureless gatherings I argue against here, are failures because they cannot lead to anything else. They do not and cannot explicitly set up any next step, and next steps can never simply be assumed to just follow and even when everyone leaves the pub with good and positive feelings about their host and how much they had enjoyed this break from work.

Finishing this as a message to my colleague who I know reads these postings: next time we should brainstorm some details for making the right type of structured event for your consulting and third party provider business – and with some of that devoted to finding a better way to track return on investment by identifying any new or increased business that comes from the Version 2.0 events. And we should talk about next steps and creating buzz and viral marketing potential, that your business brings professionals together – and with other professionals and also with information and insight they need to succeed.

I remember you’re asking me to post a series on marketing operations in a ubiquitously interconnected online context and I am already planning that out and will be posting my Part 1 to it in a few days. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.) This and similar postings can also be found at Social Networking and Business.

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