Meeting people in casual, real life situations can have a transformative effect on your business life, and your bottom line.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the inaugural Travel Massive event in Madrid, and it got me thinking about something that I so often take for granted: networking. In person, glass of wine in hand, chatting about life, business and everything and anything else.

Call it a meet up, call it networking, call it drinks with folks… Getting “out of the building” and into the bar drives innovation and new business. How?

New people, new opportunities

Even for introverts like me, meeting new people can be fun. There are so many people in the world doing interesting, innovative things… And here’s a chance to meet some of them and find out what fires them up.

Here’s a chance to make a connection, help another colleague or friend with a good introduction, or even close a deal yourself. New people who you enjoy speaking to, and old acquaintances that you catch up with are always with the trip.

And really, that’s the glue that sticks everything together. To paraphrase a distantly remembered quote from Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid, “How many people like you and know what you do?” Here’s a chance to increase that number.

“How many people like you and know what you do?”

Paraphrase and reframe

Have an elevator pitch? No? Thank god for that. I’m all for being able to concisely express your business’s main idea, but not such a fan of robotic repetition.

networking in madrid - business development
#TravelMassive Madrid organisers, Ines, Andy and Alan with guests and guest speakers Elena Arribas and D. Juan Bautista Orusco

Speaking with people who have never heard of your business and likely will never become a customer gives you a chance to… Listen, primarily. But also a chance to try to make what you do sound interesting to them. If you’re not excited about what you do, why on earth would they be? And why would they refer you onto someone else?

Reframing your business to meet the interests of a wide variety of people you’ve just met can help you sharpen your marketing, strategic direction, or even lead to new business growth ideas.

The ideas factory

Business growth ideas? Definitely.

Any networking event should be an ideas factory, as conversations spark new connections, different viewpoints and fresh or forgotten strategies.

Want to steal something that’s been working for another company? Reverse engineer the growth of a competitor? Find out what people think of changes in the market? In each conversation there are new ideas that can be brought into your business.

The long tail effect

Sometimes these things just don’t seem to connect… To gel… To be worth anything.

I remember flying to the US in 2010 for a two-day conference. Technically, the conference was a bit of a disaster with Wi-Fi not working, events running overtime, you get the idea. The types of businesses I expected to sell our product to weren’t represented in the numbers I expected, and the key decision makers were quite absent. I was several thousand dollars out of pocket, which represented about four months’ profits back then, with no sales and no solid leads. Ouch.

But as I look back at that event almost five years later, I’m still in touch with dozens of the people I met there. We have done business together, passed referrals backwards and forwards, met on several continents, and helped, in dozens of small ways, moved each other’s businesses forward. So while it stung in 2010, it’s still paying off in 2015. And that’s not a bad investment in time or money.

There are always things that fail to provide the return you’re after, but look to the long tail, measure success by what you learn and who knows what you do and enjoys your company. Then turn to actively look for the sales, collaboration and introductions that meet your goals.

A little networking in Madrid has really brought into focus what meeting people really means to my business’s bottom line.

(A special thanks to the Madrid #TravelMassive organisers, the speakers from Madrid Rutas de Vino, and sponsors Bike Spain and Singular Madrid, plus our wonderful venue De Vinos.)