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Alternative ways to make BD connections

September 18, 2012

Today’s post is courtesy of Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM, Founder & Principal of Rhino Public Relations. Questions or comments? Contact her at susan@rhinopr.com, Twitter @RhinoPRBoston or visit www.rhinopr.com.

Let’s face it. In these trying economic times, creative business development strategies are critical towards reaching your target audience. Although many great business deals are forged over a handshake with a long-time associate, that may no longer cut it in a field where competition is increasingly outnumbering opportunities. It’s ever more important to know your client, speak to their needs, get creative, and earn their trust.

More than likely, it will be necessary to spend a little money to reach your goal, but the outcome can far exceed your initial investment. For example socializing is one of the best ways to reach your client, and top sales achievers have been doing it for ages. Who doesn’t like a party? You’re not stuck behind a conference table sipping water from crystal tumblers; you’re up mingling with peers and colleagues and more than likely sharing a cocktail and a laugh.

Boston-based Margulies Perruzzi Architects has a gorgeous roof deck overlooking Fort Point Channel, so they took advantage of the view and the weather and held a series of small cocktail parties throughout the summer. Then, they held an ‘end of summer’ party and invited everyone who had been included throughout the summer, giving their contacts double-exposure to the firm as well as opening up networking opportunities for them in a low-pressure setting.

GEI Consultants, a geotechnical, environmental and water resources engineering services firm, created an industry conference within a niche service area and invited leaders in the field to participate by speaking and running seminars. The conference is in its third year and has become known as the go-to event for this professional service. Additionally, at industry events they’ve made a reservation at a nice restaurant for 10 or so people and invite clients and prospects to dinner. Many people don’t plan ahead, and welcome the opportunity to join a group for dinner.

Other less casual opportunities exist by positioning your staff as thought leaders in the industry. Hosting industry association events, inviting clients to brown-bag lunch seminars or as a guest at strategic conferences may allow for professional edification and a chance for the client to sit back and get to know you and your firm without the formal pressure of evaluating a proposal or sitting through an interview.

Awards galas, open houses, anniversary parties, networking events, volunteer activities, hospitality suites, company outings, and sporting events can be perfect venues for spending quality time with new people who may turn into a long-term business relationships.

NOTE: This article originally appeared in the March 2011 issue of PSMJ’s A/E Marketing Journal.

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