As a solo business owner with only a small team at the helm, paid advertising has always been tough for me to justify. It’s not that I don’t believe it works; however, when you’re in the early organic stages of growing a business, every dollar counts. With every spend I’m asking myself, “Who is going to see this and what will be my return?” If the answer to either of those is unclear, or not right for my business, I’m likely to pass.
The bigger lesson I’ve come to learn though is that I am actually still spending on advertising, but in a very different way. I am a part two national associations for wedding and event professionals, as well as a frequent attendee of local, regional, and national seminars and workshops. I rarely miss meetings for these and am always up for hangouts with those I’ve met. Hello my name is Sarah, and I am a serial networker.
Photo courtesy Claire Staley Photography
For those of you who think making in-person connections is too expensive, intimidating, or time consuming, you’re not looking at it the right way. Instead of viewing it as just a chore or an obligation, make sure you are ALWAYS viewing it as the best kind of advertising for you and your brand. In the moment, you know exactly who your audience is, can tailor the message to what they need to hear, and answer any questions right away. If you’re a company that puts out the effort to create and pay for an ad in a publication, but can’t be bothered to simply have an actual presence with your local community, there may be more than one opportunity you’re missing out on.
“For those of you like me, who want to shout your name from the mountaintops as far as possible but only have a shoestring budget to do so, this is where you start.”
For those of you like me, who want to shout your name from the mountaintops as far as possible but only have a shoestring budget to do so, this is where you start. Find out what groups are already in your area to join, or if all else fails start your own. Setup tours, meet and greets, coffee dates, and happy hours. I know membership fees and bar bills may seem tough to swing for a while, but if you can, I promise you it’s going to pay off. Maybe not immediately, or even in the first year or two, but down the road when you land a huge client from the local wedding planner who is now a good friend of yours, it will be worth it.
Photo courtesy Tim Fitch Photography
And by the way, “good friend” was a key phrase there. When you choose to invest in networking, not only are you advertising but you are building relationships, both personal and professional. Over the years I’ve been able to surround myself with a community where it’s almost always a guarantee I’m working with a few “friendors” during each event I take on. These are not only people who understand and appreciate my work, but have also navigated other areas important to my life such as parenthood or work/life balance. We’re all there to grow our business of course, but what fully comes out of it is a much bigger return on investment.
Sarah Davidson is a member of the National Association for Catering and Events and owner of Harmonious Union Events - www.huevents.net. Now in its 60th year, National Association for Catering and Events (NACE), www.nace.net is the oldest and largest professional association dedicated to all aspects of the catering and events industry. Committed to building a vibrant community and proving essential resources for its members.