In my first year of business, I distinctly remember attending a speed networking event at the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce. If you have not been introduced to this form of torture (written with a wink), everyone goes around the table and delivers their sales pitch and passes out business cards. At this particular event there were a couple of marketing agencies. I remember listening to their pitches and wondering if I should close Spire2 and go work for someone else.
But a funny thing happened…
Within a year, the owner of the agency that seemed the most established had a medical issue and very quickly folded. The other agency also disappeared. I started to see a pattern. For example, I met a personal trainer once who looked like a million bucks (okay, I know that part is not too hard to achieve in the fitness industry). He was starting a gym and publishing a book. He handed out black cards with black foil stamp and he had a very sweet website (this was long before the days of Squarespace). When going through my pile of business cards six months after meeting him, I decided to check in. When I typed his domain name in the browser, I got an error message. I am still wondering what happened to him, and who lost a lot of money setting up his business. I have witnessed this again and again over the years — many businesses and even many people don’t stick around for long.
A simple formula – just keep working
For fifteeen years, I have focused on doing work that helps move my clients forward. Whether they are developing a nonprofit or growing their business, my goal is to deliver results. More importantly, I’ve tried to deliver service in a way that allows my clients to worry less about marketing so they can focus on what they do best — or at least what requires more attention.
The result of this simple formula: I have had one client for fifteen years. I have had a client who switched careers and then switched back after many years and hired me again. Many relationships were built over a long period of time — the business coming many years after the relationship began. I was recently hired to do a significant amount of work for someone I met over ten years ago.
Instead of selling, start helping
So after fifteen years, will you forgive me if I give a little advice? Instead of making a sales pitch, share with people something that will help them. And stick around. You will find that quite a bit of business comes around by doing good work and sticking around. At the very least you will make speed networking much more enjoyable.
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