Many firms recently attended the ACG InterGrowth conference in Dallas and are now returning to their daily lives. We saw a number of outstanding firms at InterGrowth invest as much as $30,000 in a booth, marketing literature, and personnel in order to make the most of their attendance at the event. Their work ensured that the community of deal professionals at the event knew who they were and where to find them when the moment was right.
The deal business is, first and foremost, a relationship-driven business and Members continue to rightfully recognize that they need to make an investment in relationships to fully realize their goals in other areas (e.g. improved relationships, deal flow, closed deals, visibility, new business, great referrals).
Imagine if, after spending that money, firms routinely ignored people stopping by their booth. Or they refused to speak with people they already knew at a conference – because they already knew them. Or if the sole criteria for success was the size of the attendee list, after crossing out everyone that was already in your database, and irrespective of whether you took the time to speak with anyone on that list?
And yet this is precisely the attitude many Members take towards their online presence.
The biggest mistake we see Members make is believing the relationships created in online networks are inferior to the human relationships they build at conferences. Online networks are simply a reflection of the same type of community that attends conferences and should be used to create the same awareness and visibility, year round.
LinkedIn has over 100 million different users, yet many Members fail to take the basic steps of updating their company information, regularly posting updates to their activity feeds, or networking through LinkedIn to extend and deepen their relationships.
Similarly, on Axial, we sometimes see Members hesitate to correspond with an audience of literally thousands of potential deal relationships. Capital providers will passively review their queue of “Deals Awaiting Review” without ever responding back to the banker that sent them the deal. Bankers will do careful due diligence on their potential buyer relationships but never take the time to pick up the phone and introduce themselves. Somehow, the online experience is mistakenly commoditizing what could be a potentially valuable relationship.
On the other hand, the best Members work tirelessly to integrate their on-line and off-line presence. Firms like Larsen MacColl will spend the time to create real in-person relevance through their marketing efforts, in-person meetings, and (of course) a delicious shared meal. But they’ll also take time to carefully invest in their online presence – ensuring that their LinkedIn and Axial profiles are well-tended and up-to-date and that they’re as responsive and available as possible to these growing networks.
They know that awareness is not driven through just one channel but created and broadcast through the careful and diligent integration of their online and offline personas.
The online world is really just a conference – a much larger conference with a potentially higher ROI if invested in appropriately. The firms that fall short mistakenly commoditize and underinvest in online relationships rather than integrating all of their marketing and awareness efforts to maximize their returns.
At a minimum, if you’re attending conferences or managing any kind of business development effort for your firm, thoughtfully plan how you will integrate your in-person efforts with your online presence. The best returns are generated by firms that take the time to strategically integrate their marketing investment – using technology to give lift and leverage to valuable personal relationships.
Strategically integrating your online and offline marketing efforts is the real path to proprietary opportunities and superior returns.