About a year ago I was asked to help develop an event for Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Interestingly enough, the idea was to plan a networking event for interior designers, architects other trade people and friends. Usually events seem to be about “selling things” but this was more about helping others build their businesses.
The event was the idea of John Hoffman, general manager of Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs.
"We really appreciate our area interior designers and customers in general," says John. "They create business for us and it would be nice if we could do something to help them grow their business. We see our relationship with our customers as a partnership and we are happy to add a little extra to the relationship. We have been very successful with these events in the past but it’s time to try something new."
The event, “Using Social Networking to Grow Your Business,” was not only fun but very informative, with lots of chatter and good food, I was also able to introduce my book, Red Hot Customer Service, 35 Ways to Heat up Your Business and Ignite Your Sales, and share it with everyone.
One of Jack Laurie Floors’ past events has grown into a yearly event: the pilgrimage to NEOCON in Chicago. John says this is one of their most popular events which everyone loves. Jack Laurie Floors rents two luxury buses and shuttles approximately 100 interior designers to the event. This makes it easy to attend; we play games on the bus, sing, enjoy good food all day and generally have a good time. According to John, "We get to spend time together away from business and get to know each other better. We also discuss what we saw at NEOCON and what we liked and didn’t like. Talking about products helps us know our designers better so we can buy the right samples for their customers."
With the economy suffering, generosity goes a long way. Getting out and meeting people is time consuming as well as difficult to mix in with busy schedules. Combining fun with information is a great double header. This was the basis for their event.
So, do these events really help a business? Everyone seems to thinks so. If nothing else, it pays off in good will and everyone gets a chance to network and meet new people.
I spoke with Phil Troyer, Architect and Owner, PA Troyer Architect, about why he attended this networking event. His response: “You always have to look out for new ways to build your business.”
I was amazed to find Joe Bjerk, COO, Guardian Relocation/Home Moving and Storage with locations in Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne and Columbus at the event. Even though he's not in the flooring industry, Joe told me he was excited to be invited to this event.
"I got to network and picked up some ideas for marketing my own business," he said.
Planning an event? Take some advice from General Manager, John Hoffman:
- Know your audience, what they need and what will help them with their business.
- Don’t forget students from your local design college. This is a great opportunity to get to know them, share information and build new contacts for your store. The college can also provide you with great interior design interns.
- Have enough staff to talk with all the customers; it’s up to them to meet and greet their guests.
- Plan a program that’s fun. If it’s too serious it just gets boring.
- You don’t have to talk about business all the time; this is a good way to get to know people.
- Invite people with different backgrounds and different needs; mix it up. This makes it more interesting and better networking.
- Serve good food and drink so your guests feel special. They are special!
- Get your vendors involved so they can network with your customers.
- Be sure and follow up with your guests. In the case of Jack Laurie Home Floor Designs, the educational part of the event encouraged them to create a new Facebook fan page; then they emailed all attendees to ask them to become fans.
- Every business needs customers to grow their business and growing your customer base means putting in time networking both face-to-face and through the Web. If you love your customers, this is a good way to show them.
Pictures from the event!
For more information on building a networking event, check out: