Top 5 Ways a Networking Group Can Boost Your Biz

by Bryan on October 26, 2010

I just finished Scott Stratten’s book, “UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging.” So this post could  just as easily be named, “A Page From Scott Stratten’s Playbook…”

This is a post about how to boost your biz…

but also kind of a case study about what’s working and not working in networking groups. You’ve become a member of Linked Orange County. You’re in our group, neat. Welcome! Next, you decide to opt-in to getting our newsletter because you know it’s the best way to keep your finger on the pulse, get special access to events, members and other perks. Now what? Unlike most of the business networking groups out there doing networking old-school , we’re trying to do things a little differently at Linked Orange County. We’re far from perfect but we’re trying to make this work for you. Here are some tips:

Biz Boosting TIP #1

Step away from the TV. I have a favorite shirt like the one in the photo above. It’s the shirt I put on when I’m done with work and ready to eat something on the couch. It goes great with my stretchy elastic waistband pants-also good for eating alone. Make time to get away from your computer-and indoors in general and get out there to a group event [insert obvious plug for 11/11 networking event here]. I don’t need to entice you with the thought of a peppy Canadian author. Or the likes of a power panel of guests….The air is fresh and the people are friendly. This still seems to be a tough one for people. Todd, you know I’m talking about you!  I understand about being shy or introverted, it’s very natural and common. No one likes walking into a crowd of people they don’t know…so keep reading, but make plans to come out.

Biz Boosting TIP #2

Before you even come to an event, join our LinkedIn Group and use it to its full potential. What I mean by this is, update your profile to 100%, add a natural looking picture, not a Glamor Shot. Avoid the fist curled under the chin shot especially. Once you’re a member, you can do searches based on keywords, titles, names, company name etc. Make a target list. Not so you can blitz them upon meeting, or be that creepy guy who somehow knows all your stats..but so you can do research on their interests and background to build relationships of trust. Find people you might already know and ask them if they’re going to the event. Then when you do meet them IRL (in real life) it’s more like meeting an old friend vs. awkward blind date. When you start the relationship see what you might have in common, don’t jump in with a sales pitch.Be yourself. Be friendly. Don’t spend too much time talking to any one person. Remember, if you (think you) love someone, set them free. Don’t ask for anything.

Good example vs. Bad example:

Bad example first…

This person brings a big stack of business cards the size of a deck of playing cards like he’s a Las Vegas dealer to our monthly events. He approaches people with biz cards in hand, and ready to let them fly with the intention of passing out and collecting as many cards as possible. This he does under the guise of “lead-gen” or worse– to add or collect more people (also known as victims) to his mailing list. Surprise!  He evaluates ROI (return on his event ticket investment) on how many cards he collects and how many he passed out. When he meets a panelist or the keynote speaker at the event, he tries hard to spend as much time talking to them as possible, hoping they will be convinced his company is the bees knees, ignoring the long line of other people waiting their turn. He adds the VIPs to his email list because he’s sure they are the most influential and can help him the most. He follows up with several emails, calls, text messages and DM’s (Twitter term) to consummate the relationship. Since quantity is his game, he also belongs to several groups and attends as many networking events as possible. He is not loyal to any one group, he just wants to promote and push his product to as many people as possible.

One alternative…

She uses our LinkedIn group to search for business leads that she can engage in discussions or meet in person at events. She is active on the Discussion Board and posts meaningful questions or valuable insights so that when there are events she’ll know a few people. She connects with group members on Twitter. She does not post her sales pitches, promote other groups or outside events which may conflict with the Linked OC event calendar. She brings business cards to our event but tries to get to know people first. She has a mental checklist in her mind: 1.) Is this someone I can help? 2.) Someone who can help me? 3.) Do I know someone who can help this person? If there is a match she exchanges biz cards. She shares the group with friends and colleagues. She tries to give back by attending events, becoming a sponsor on occasion or by spreading the word when she cannot attend. She recognizes that it’s about building relationships. That we buy from people we know, like and trust. That we’re all in this together and that we need each other. She tries to give business and refer business back to Linked Orange County group members when possible.

Biz Boosting TIP #3

Establish yourself as an expert in your category by posting valuable nuggets of expertise, shoot a video or point to articles on the LinkedIn Group Discussion Board. I find most of the discussions don’t seem to be discussions at all. You may actually hurt your reputation by posting thinly veiled sales pitches or posting too frequently when the content isn’t exactly great. It’s also bad form to promote your own events, semimars, webinars etc. as these count as pitches too. Get pre-approved before you post your own event and I’ll make sure it gets noticed by members. Give back by cross promoting Linked Orange County at your event. The idea is to engage people in a discussion. But you’d be surprised how many people post questions like, “What are the best networking groups to join?” This is like going to a great steak restaurant and asking the waiter, “Where ELSE can I get a great steak in this town?”

Biz Boosting TIP #4

Get involved. Let me tell you the story of BoardWalk Ice Cream CoJosh Bruni owns and operates the company and is a smart guy. I met Josh about a year ago when he first opened his ice cream shop in Irvine Spectrum. I invited him to join the group and he quickly stepped up to donate his delicious custom-built ice cream at events. He’s got a great product, but more importantly Josh gets it. He understands the value of being part of an active networking group (aka: passionate community) and embedded himself and his product a several events and donated free ice cream. Those of you who are skeptical about how effective this is might wonder how much Josh spent giving out free stuff. Assuming full retail price of an ice cream is about $3, Josh probably spends between $600-$1,000 per event. So what’s the ROI (return on investment)? Did a hungry crowd mob his Irvine shop the days or weeks after the event? I’m guessing no. But Josh knew that several people who run their own companies, host their own company picnics, events, trade shows, etc attend the events. His plan was to be there before the sale. To delight you and give you an enjoyable experience with his brand.

This style of engagement marketing paid off big time. Josh started making big deals with major players and organizations (like hotels and pro baseball stadiums), and started to get invited to big paying events. You can see him below with pro skateboarder and MTV star Rob Dyrdek at the Fantasy Factory.

What are the ways you’re marketing your business? How’s that working for you? If you’re showing up at networking events, I’m guessing there’s still room for improvement… What does a print ad cost? 1/2 page ad in a local free Orange County business and lifestyle magazine costs about $1,500. How about doing some TV? The local cable company recommends a budget of $1,000-$3,000 per month minimum to make any splash with a product or service. No sales guarantees, just reach and frequency stats. How about a website? This you can do on the cheap, do it yourself or have your cousin do it and pay peanuts. But is anyone visiting the site?  Josh invested a few hundred dollars in you without pushing out a message or asking for your business and got a huge return. Yes, I’m bias because I host these events. And you know that I rely on sponsors (and attendees) to help cover the costs to put them on. But consider the upside of building relationships vs pushing out an ad to potentially thousands of people who couldn’t care less.

Biz Boosting TIP #5

Refer business to each other. Yes, it’s that simple. But way before we’re comfortable doing this we have to get to know each other. That’s what meeting in person is all about. That’s why being a sponsor like Josh has been pays off. How can we have a passing interest in the group and the people in it and expect business? We can’t. Scott Stratten has said something I like a lot: “If you believe business is built on relationships, then you need to make building relationships your business.”

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. What did I leave out or miss?


Did you enjoy this post? Make sure you become a member to receive free updates! Click here to sign up.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Open Cobra October 27, 2010 at 1:10 am

Good tips. If I wasn’t going to be at Pubcon I’d definitely be at the Scott Stratten event. I’ll keep an eye out for the next one.

Scot October 27, 2010 at 1:14 am

I love your direct (and humorous) style. You make a solid case for your events: It is cheap “admission” to be part of an exciting community that helps build your business and have fun doing it. Thank you for awesome work!

Matt October 27, 2010 at 2:30 am

First, thank you for taking the time to write these tips. I know I find them useful.

I saw @Unmarketing’s TEDx video and it sold me: - for whatever it’s worth.

While we’re on the topic of “bad examples”… I want to share my “business card etiquette.” It’s really simple: don’t give out your card unless someone asks for it. At the end of the night, I leave with several business cards. And I throw away the ones of people I don’t remember. Think about it. Won’t you be more memorable if you give out your business card only to those who ask? It shouldn’t be a numbers game.

I can vividly remember being at a networking event, someone coming up to my table, and handing out cards to everyone. He also collected everyone’s card. He made very little effort to learn about what the people at my table did. He was a shark and left a bad taste. Did I mentioned he signed me up with his mailing list?

Also, don’t forget about the follow up. So maybe you met some cool people. Within a day, send out an e-mail follow up and arrange a lunch or set up a phone call. Simply seeing people month after month at LinkedOC is nice and all, but relationships really happen in person outside of these events.

Utilize social media. Meet some cool? Tweet them. Tell all your followers about it. People like it when you mention them. I’m not saying to be fake and to do it just for the sake of doing it… but be genuine and intentional.

I love the example. Remember, it’s about *people*. It’s about relationships. Be real. People do business with people they like.

“If you believe business is built on relationships, then you need to make building relationships your business.” - I love it.

Thanks Bryan!

David Grave October 27, 2010 at 4:07 am

Being real is always more important than being a hustler. I wonder what root Real, and Relations stem from if any?


Tim Tyrell-Smith October 27, 2010 at 7:59 am

Thanks Bryan - There’s a lot to be learned from Scott’s book. I’m in the middle of it myself. Really like the way you applied his ideas here. And whether you consider yourself an expert networker or not, we all can get better at doing it for the right reasons. And with a patience to get the right result over time.

Jen Olewinski October 27, 2010 at 8:53 am

Another great example of someone getting involved and it paying off is Brian Carter, your photographer. I met him at one of the first events a while ago, and as life happens and it gets busy, his name fell by the wayside. I noticed him as the photographer of your last event though, and also saw him mentioned in the photos you took with speaker at the last event, bringing him to the forefront of my mind. Next time a client needs a photographer for an event or a headshot, Brian will probably be top of mind then too. That is how donating some of your time can reap big rewards. (and no, I don’t work for Brian or his company).

The group is a great way to get your networking feet wet and I have met a lot of intelligent and successful people through it. Your speakers are amazing too! Keep up the hard work Bryan!!

Rita Tayenaka October 27, 2010 at 8:59 am

Great suggestions for entering a large room filled with lots of people. Will use your suggested strategies in the future. Will be on a plane coming home from the National Real Estate convention in New Orleans so will miss this event… next time. Have enjoyed the past events and look forward to the future ones, they are always very informative.

Mike Walker October 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

“…or be that creepy guy who somehow knows all your stats….”
LOL. That’s awesome. Great write up and points well made.
So…what you’re saying is that my bright orange Ed Hardy tshirt and matching full graphic, elastic banded pants are a no go?! Geeezz….
All kidding aside. Another great article with a handful of powerful takeaways. Thanks Bryan!

brandon October 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

Thanks for the tips. As a younger business owner never been to a networking group event, I feel that I would have been more like the bad example just trying to pass as many cards out as possible. After reading the article I have a much better game plan. I find that quote from Scott very true for me as a photographer and most my business comming from word of mouth.
Thanks again.

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:35 am

Thanks Brandon!

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:36 am

Thanks Mike!

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

Thanks Rita, good luck on your trip and we’ll see you next time.

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:39 am

Yes, Brian Carter ( is super talented. Thanks for the shout out!

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:39 am

Thanks Tim!

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:39 am

Thanks Dave!

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:43 am

Great comments Matthew!

Tanya October 27, 2010 at 10:00 am

Thank you Brian…LOVED IT! I am, well was, the networking queen. I am definitely NOT the shy one in my family. For some reason I never got business out from anyone, so as a result I stopped attending. What I have recognized is that people can read right through desperation and that was me. I am so passionate about what I do and how it can save lives on every level that I was MISSING the point of actually serving. I more focused on getting business rather than SERVING. When we serve we receive. I have been absent from the community and in order to SERVE we must connect with our community. I truly appreciate your candidness and offering some really valuable tips. Nothing like a good refresher course. I look forward to connecting with you and your group. Until then,

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 10:06 am

Thanks Tanya!

Nick Beske October 27, 2010 at 10:14 am

Great post- it should be a required read before attending a networking event or mixer. I meet people from your “bad example” all the time and I cringe as they approach with that stack of cards, or worse- they walk towards you with their arm extended, card in hand like they’re playing pin the tail on the donkey. These people are the in-person equivalent of pop-up adds. Thanks but no thanks buddy.

John Vrba October 27, 2010 at 10:23 am

LinedIn’s motto is a perfect epitome: “Relationships Matter”

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 10:30 am


Bryan October 27, 2010 at 10:31 am

Thanks Nick!

Brooks October 27, 2010 at 10:43 am

Great article. I never like the guy with the stack of business cards. The first thing that always comes to mind is…”Insurance Agent.” Thanks for putting on great events and providing a place for business minded individuals to meet up.

Brandon Yanofsky October 27, 2010 at 10:48 am

I really like the story of boardwalk ice cream co. I have a lot more respect for the company now.

aileen October 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Thank you for the tips! I appreciate your etiquette tips too.

I think when us folks are really into business it becomes a lens through which we see everything, even personal relationships. Perhaps at these events we can take off the business goggles and remember we are all real people. Be curious and friendly like you would be to a new neighbor.

I haven’t made it out to any events yet because I’ve been taking too many night classes! Ironically, your next event falls on my Professional Sales class night. I hope to make it out when the semester is over.

Sean Bishop October 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Thanks guys.

Doug Fleischli October 27, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thank you Bryan,

A warm smile and friendly introduction go a long way in meeting new professional contacts, making new friends and learning the latest in business. Keep it real and sincere. The bottom line is listening.

nazila pace October 27, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Thank you so much for all that information. Very informative and wether you are an expert or not, I think you gave great ideas. I am a Realtor and part of a non-profit organization, I give away percentage of my services to this organization everytime I sell a home or help a client buy. How can we promote this on LinkedIn? How can I be able to give away my services like Josh did?
Thank you

Adam October 27, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I’ve been shopping around, looking for that best steak house for too long! As a recent college graduate, I wanted to get involved in as much as I could. It didn’t take too long to realize it’s more about the quality of the relationships, not the number of people I know. I’m looking forward to attending a LinkedOC Event in the near future! Thanks Bryan for the great post and making this such a special group to be a part of.

Tirsa Parrish October 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Thank you for the great tips and reminders. I love hearing and seeing the great information.
Keep the positive vibe and community alive.

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Thanks Adam!

Bryan October 27, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Thanks Nazila, I’d be happy to give you some ideas, feel free to email me:

Darrin McClure October 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Great article on the…. Top 5 Ways a Networking Group Can Boost Your Biz…
It is very helpful to find out hints like this.

Keep up the great work !!!

Mikael Lindahl October 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Nothing prophetic, simply I want to express my thanks for your social media articles, tips, and event postings. I hope to contribute as I evolve.
Thanks ’1goodbrain’

Bryan October 28, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Thanks Darrin

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: