Let's not kid around, the marketing and business development people who work for the top service provider firms in your town have a lot of power and influence. You should know them better.
While many people spend their networking efforts forever chasing the C-level players in town, the smart ones get in line to know those in marketing, sales, and business development. These professionals always have outgoing personalities, and are not as guarded of their calendars as other senior executives, which makes getting to know them easier.
A smart idea to get to know some of these key people is to gather a small group together for lunch or happy hour. Yesterday in Austin we had 15 marketing and business development folks in one room just to facilitate better networking, and the event was a huge success.
There was no agenda, just some good friends from a cross section of industries having lunch to catch up on what is happening around town. We do this every year or so, and it brings together some old friends and new faces from these different services firms. Yes, some folks are competitors, but we are not there to trade secrets, just broad best practices and some local business community scoop.
I am assuming that someone out there who just read this thought; "wow, I should do that in my community and bring together a group of marketing folks that I want to know better!". If that crossed your mind, then do it.
It was easy to put together. A friend of mine who is the marketing director at a major law firm and I created a list of 25 people to invite. We found a private room at a restaurant and negotiated a flat fee for the lunch. We then sent out the following email using evite.com. Planning the event took me less than 15 minutes.
I have removed the minutia details so you could cut and paste this into your own invitation:
Dear Marketing and Biz Dev Folks-
It has been a long time since we have pulled some of the cool marketing folks together for a lunch to chat and discuss what is going on around [insert city]. Some of you have been to one of these gatherings before, others are new faces. There is no agenda, just a chance for us all to get to know each other better and catch up with old friends.
Please join us on [insert date]at [insert restaurant]. Bring $22 cash, as that will cover salad, food, desert, tea, tax and tip. We have the private room downstairs reserved.The room only holds 20 and we have found in the past that more than that becomes too big.
***If you RSVP "yes" you will be expected to pay if you no-show, as to get a private room like this we need to guarantee the head count the previous Friday!!!
The great thing about planning an event like this is that you get to invite the people whom you want to network with. Since there is no agenda, most people will enthusiastically attend, as they all know that hanging around other marketers from service companies is mutually beneficial.
It is important to put that reminder about no-shows having to pay, as you do not want to be left footing the charges for those who get called into last minute meetings, etc... But even if you did have to pay for a few people, the value of the event is worth the cost. We had 15 people in attendance and it was great!!!
Good luck and happy networking.
Have A Great Day.