If it weren’t for EXPO the staff at BCI might not have anything to wear.
Maybe that’s a stretch, but according to BCI marketing director Wendi Garrison, clothes were one of her company’s many networking success stories to come right out of the Mississippi Business Journal’s Business & Technology EXPO.
The event plus the power of networking helped the Ridgeland information technology firm build a relationship with a local clothing retailer that now supplies all of their monogrammed corporate apparel.
Garrison believes the bottom line of modern business networking is brokering needs. “Don’t be afraid to ask people questions when they come to your booth,” she advises companies attending this year’s event. “See what their needs are.”
Garrison said an important networking goal for BCI is helping potential clients understand that you don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to offer cutting-edge technology services and products. BCI continues to forge ahead in IT and cloud computing and achieved $65 million in sales last year.
Comcast is returning to EXPO to run the popular Cyber Café with its bank of wireless laptops full of information on the media giant’s many products and services from faster Internet bandwidth to digital voice plans.
More from 2012 MBJ EXPO …
Business services director Trevor Drake said EXPO has always benefited he and his sales team. “Get your sales folks out there in front of the decision makers,” he advises attendees. “The biggest thing is to meet the folks out there. Walk around and enjoy the show, talk to the people manning the booths and take an interest in their products. My folks love coming and it is really an enjoyable time.”
“EXPO is an important venue for companies to learn about trends in business and emerging technologies and also allows local companies to connect and expand their businesses.” Mayo Flynt, president, AT&T Mississippi.
With more of the world conducting business online through social networks or video chats, is the handshake too antiquated?
“You don’t have to build future business relationships just digitally,” said MBJ publisher Alan Turner. “Person-to-person meetings are still a very effective way to build contacts and conduct business.”
A final word on networking tips:
>> Do make personal connections. It’s not just about products or services. It’s about where the person is from or where they went to school. Do you have any friends or relatives that they know?
>> Don’t just take a business card blindly. Take a minute to notice things like the address (so you can get directions if you have no idea where the company is) or the job title (“What exactly does a network quality adjustor do?”) It keeps the conversation going.
>> Do get organized. There are plenty of websites that can help you create a digital catalog of your business cards. Plaxo.com (developed by Napster and Facebook guru Sean Parker) allows you to key in contact info and upload pictures of your contacts. It also has a corresponding mobile app that can sync with your smartphone and remind you of upcoming birthdays.
>> Don’t forget to send a short email out to meaningful connections, thanking them for their time and reminding them of the conversation. Ask them if they want to follow up over lunch.
>> Do take advantage of any trending technology. QR codes, for example, are little bar codes that can be printed on business cards. They contain an embedded website URL that can be scanned by your smartphone and take people to your company or personal website.