Social media vs face-to-face networking: what wins clients?

Social media may allow you to ‘meet’ hundreds of potential clients – but is it as effective as meeting 10 potential clients the old fashioned way?

Social media sites such as LinkedIn has made connecting with clients easier than ever, while technology such as Skype has made it quick and cost-effective to talk to people on the other side of the world.

Theoretically, bagging clients through virtual networking should be a breeze, but is it an effective medium for winning new business?

Norma Reynaga, an award-winning First Class Accounts franchise owner who’s used both methods to win new business weighs in.

 

The Pulse: What role did networking play in establishing your business?

Norma: It played a huge role. I opened my franchise in May 2012 and in the early days, when I didn’t have much money for marketing, I used to attend all the free networking events in my local area that I could.

I was out four nights a week shaking hands with as many people as possible, handing out my card and refining my elevator pitch.

It was hard work, but I found this kind of networking a very cost effective way of getting in front of clients or other professionals who could refer me.

It took me about 18 months to establish my business and most of the work that came in was a result of face-to-face networking.

The Pulse: Do you continue to invest heavily in face-to-face networking?

Norma: Not as much as I used to because I’ve got a pretty solid client base and a steady workflow but I still dedicate a couple of days a week to networking.

Whether that’s calling up a prospective client to organise a coffee meeting or phoning an existing client to see how they’re travelling, I think it’s important to invest in chasing new business and keeping those already on the books happy.

The Pulse: What’s the recipe for successful face-to-face networking?

Norma: Being generous with your time and knowledge, and having a ‘human’ mentality to winning clients.

You need to approach prospective clients and business contacts like you would a new friendship — i.e. you’re happy to invest in them without expecting anything in return.

You also have to get comfortable putting yourself out there and you need to be strategic.

For example, if you pick up 10 business cards at an event you need to make sure you follow them up the next day with a friendly email so they remember you.

I’d then recommend calling them up a week later.

In my experience, the key to success is thoroughly researching your prospective client before picking up the phone so you can tailor your pitch to meet their needs.

The Pulse: How effective has social media been in winning new business?

Norma: In my experience, it hasn’t been as effective as face-to-face networking.

While I think social media is very useful for researching clients, I’ve only had a couple of enquiries through LinkedIn, and in these cases, all they wanted me to do was to ‘follow them’.

I’ve got a profile on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and post quite regularly, I haven’t really invested much time using these channels for business networking.

I know social media can be very effective for some businesses, so I’m meeting with a social media adviser soon to talk about lead generation and other ways it could help me reach new clients.

The Pulse: Do you think the human touch trumps technology when it comes to winning new clients?

Norma: I can’t speak for other businesses, but for me, a human touch wins every time.

For shy people, I can understand why it’s tempting to rely solely on technology and social media — but things can get lost in translation as a result.

While it can be quite nerve wracking to network in person, especially for introverted people, there’s nothing like speaking to someone face-to-face.

By all means use social media for research and making initial contact, but make sure you pick up the phone or arrange to meet them afterwards.

Doing this will help you build a rapport that’s just not possible in the virtual world, and it will allow you to work out pretty quickly whether you’re a good professional match or not.

 

Norma Reynaga is a First Class Accounts franchise owner who runs an award-winning bookkeeping business in Currambine, Western Australia. With over 20 years experience in banking, insurance and accountancy, Norma prides herself on freeing up her clients’ time so they can focus on growing their business.