With the current state of economic worries, I am sure all of us are wondering how to make our dollars stretch more than ever. I have enough of a struggle trying to figure out where to spend my marketing dollars during busy times, and it's becoming more challenging with the current state of corporate America. I want something that costs as little as possible but gives me the biggest return. My solution is to network — both personally and socially.
Last year, ISES member Margie Deitz of Concepts Remembered hired our company to assist her with the interactive entertainment of a high-end fundraiser. The event had a Western theme, and we were hired to provide a casino, a mechanical bull and a rodeo roper. I was at the site inspection with Margie and four additional ISES members. At the time, I had worked directly with only two of the four members. As the event specifics progressed, I got to know the other two members. Relationships and friendships formed at this event, and they are even stronger a year later. I have done business with all four of these ISES members since working on this project a year ago.
Fast-forward 12 months. We were asked to assist with the same event this year; there were about six ISES members associated with the event. It was very comforting and much less time-consuming to work with the same individuals again, as well as other ISES members who had been brought into the fold. I walked away with a presentation appointment with a potential client after this year's site inspection. It was wonderful to reflect on how this network of relationships — so many of them less than a year old — began when a fellow ISES member asked me to assist her with this event.
People talk. In order to be someone talked about, you need to be around for them to remember you. This is definitely an out-of-sight, out-of-mind industry. I cannot stress how important networking can be to your business. If you are a member of ISES, use your membership to your advantage. If you are unsure if you should become a member, come check us out.
Members: You have paid the fees, now get the benefits. ISES members do business with other ISES members. Networking is one of the cheapest forms of marketing.
If you're a small-business owner, you may have used an online social networking Web site such as Facebook or LinkedIn to improve your business marketing, find new customers or check out how other small-business owners are solving problems similar to yours.
Today, you can't read a business publication or go online without finding an article on the pros and cons of participating in social networking sites. I started doing my research last week to check this out and to see if it indeed added value or was just another computer application stealing more time out of my packed day. I read an article by Lauren Tara LaCapra of thestreet.com entitled “Social Networking Can Be a Friend Indeed.” According to her article (and others), there are two primary reasons small businesses use social networking sites:
To find help: Getting answers and opinions from other small-business owners facing similar problems, finding partners, recruiting employees or locating other resources.
To grow a business: Attracting prospects, learning their target markets' strategies and winning new customers.
In her article, LaCapra found that Bank of America and VISA, in efforts to expand their brands, are launching social networking sites aimed at small-business owners. These huge companies want to be viewed as resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
These online social networking sites offer message boards, forums and guest experts as a way to provide value to small businesses. The entrepreneurs visiting the Bank of America site are asking about issues regarding customer service, how much to budget for marketing (that's the $64,000 question) and how to finance a business.
If these multibillion dollar corporations are targeting both existing and potential customers through social networks, then I guess that answered my question about whether I should participate or not. In case you cannot figure out my answer, look for my social networking invitation soon.
Name: Kelly Smink
Company: Amusement Masters
Address: 2171 Tucker Industrial Road Tucker, GA 30084 USA