On Wednesday I attended a networking event organised by the Inverness Chamber of Commerce. This was the second networking lunch I have attended, and I must say, I really enjoy these functions.
The format is simple — a hotel meeting room with several round tables set for lunch. Choose your table and then, after a welcome and introduction by the host — in this instance, Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Stuart Nicol — the formal networking begins. Each person at the table takes a few minutes to introduce themselves and to say a bit about their business. During this time, the first course is served, and then, after the introductions, people chat informally.
Someone in legal services asked me about PR, and said he had just started advertising on radio. I was intrigued to learn that he is using advertising, because many professional services firms prefer not to. Traditionally, firms of solicitors, engineers, architects and accountants have shied away from promoting themselves directly. It has been seen to be a bit brash, and frankly, not their kind of thing. But as competition heats up, and your client base diminishes through attrition, promoting your professional services firm may become a more pressing issue.
While advertising is the obvious choice when people think about getting their company name out there, it’s not the only way to achieve this objective. There are many ways to help raise your company’s profile without taking out an ad in the local paper, or committing to a month of 30-second spots on the radio. One of the most simple and straightforward ways to raise awareness of your business, is to go out and meet people at local business events. You may say, “But I’m an engineer, it’s not my job to network!” and of course, you would be wrong. If it’s not your job, then whose is it?
No one cares more about the survival of your business than you do. Unless you have a monopoly on the service you provide, you should probably consider doing at least one or two things to raise your company’s profile.
Three simple — and crucially, low-key — things you can do are:
- Stay in touch with former clients, using a corporate newsletter to share information about developments in your field — changes in legislation, for example. While you’re at it, you can also use your in-house publication to tell clients past and present about new recruits to your firm, new services you provide, recent contracts you have won, and seasonal information such as filing deadlines or an FAQ about stamp duty. A newsletter can be a very cost-effective way to stay in touch. If you don’t have the expertise in-house, a public relations firm can easily produce this for you. Like media releases, corporate newsletters are our stock-in-trade.
- If your industry has an awards scheme, consider how you can take advantage of this. Whilst it takes time to put together a nomination, winning an industry award is a great way to promote your business, and give you an excuse to get in touch with your local media. I can’t recommend it enough.
- Attend local business events, and make an effort to speak to people you don’t know. I am a big fan of networking, and you can read my previous blog posts about it here. As a self-admitted “people-person”, I have no fears of speaking to strangers at these events. However, I am in the minority it seems. To get over your reluctance to speak to people you don’t know, try to keep in mind this wonderful saying from Canada: “There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met yet.”
As you can see, none of the suggestions above requires you to be “too forward”. However each of the tactics I listed will help you to raise your company’s profile with key audiences.
As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line using our contact form here, or via Twitter @Bruce_PR.