‘Real’ Networking: Your New BFF in a Bad Economy

Posted by Sharon Esche Irving under General, Getting Started, Networking, Strategy

As a salon owner or independent contractor you grow your salon or spa business by bringing new clients into your fold.  Local personal networking is a powerful tool to do that … if you do it right!

Networking Has To Be ‘Real’ To Be Right!

OK, I admit it.  Even though I’m a publicist, I’ve never been big on networking gatherings and cool, chic mix-and-mingling events (all right … I hate them!).  These ‘get-togethers’ always feel so contrived, put together so complete strangers can ‘act friendly’ (as if they really care) to manipulate you into listening tirelessly about their business and taking their business card (circular file time).  Blah, blah, blah, I tell you – it’s unnatural!

However, this networking-naysayer may have been ‘saved’.  I discovered how ‘real’ networking can work, where the conversations get real, the people get real, and the results are real … and in many cases the other evening, immediate.

L to R: Scientist, educator & author Doug Schoon; Sharon Esche, Social Media Maven Rebekah King; Alex Irving

I think I’m now a supporter of the ‘new school’ of networking.  The premise remains the same – to make new contacts that will benefit your business, but how you do it makes the total difference in making more lasting people connections of more mutual benefit.

Making ‘Mixing’ a New Mission!

What turned me around was a recent ‘mega-mixer’ Alex and I attended in Los Angeles,  co-hosted by two terrific beauty industry organizations working together to change the face of ‘the same old boring pseudo-networking event’; Beauty Industry West (BIW) (www.beautyindustrywest.org) and Southern California Health & Beauty Professionals.  This evening the guest speaker was networking ‘queen’ Kathleen Ronald (More on Kathleen in a moment).

During the evening’s “mega-mixer on a mission”, Kathleen made it clear that in these difficult economic times, we all really need each other’s help, and we need to openly and honestly reach out with earnest energy to learn about each other’s business, to listen to the specific needs of others, and to sincerely offer a helping hand on the spot in the areas we were able.  Remarkably, the group truly responded to Kathleen’s call for caring, openness and sincerity and the dialogue went both ways.  We could really feel ‘caring returned’.  Kathleen set the stage that night and her call to action played a key role in the success of the event for us and many others.

Are You Like Me?

I wouldn’t be caught dead admitting that my business (or I) needed help from complete strangers – let alone ‘baring my soul’ and letting them know ‘my most important need’ in my business today?  Can you believe I started out saying ‘I need to be more organized’ and changed my tune (gotta be honest) to ‘I need more clients!”

For those of you who know me, let’s face it … going beyond ‘everything is just fine’ is like confessing a mortal sin back in my Catholic childhood – just mortifying!  But that evening, spurred by the knowledge that we are all facing a difficult economy, with the mission of honesty and helping each other, I have to admit that I walked away with new client leads, wonderful new contacts and business resources, and the brand new slant on professional life that ‘networking can be your friend – In fact, your ‘best friend forever’ (BFF). No matter what business or industry we’re in, this kind of this business-building tool can help us survive even the worst of economic times together.

What Alex and I Learned.

Kathleen Ronald (www.speaktacular.com) is a self-described, “cross between the Mother Theresa of Networking, and a Chatty Cathy doll”.  She drove home that it’s how you network that makes the time and effort worthwhile, not the fact that you do it.  There is no doubt that if you are already out there and mixing it up in public, you may want to evaluate what you’re doing right … and perhaps wrong.

When we heard Kathleen Ronald’s, “Seven Deadly Sins of Networking”, we immediately recognized why we had always disliked networking events.


  • Sin #1: Not Understanding ‘Who Is Your Perfect, Right Client?” — Unless you know who your perfect ‘right client’ is, you don’t know where to go to meet them.  Where do they hang out?  Where should you go to network to find them?  How long should you plan on being there?  What do you need to bring?  Do you have a plan in mind?  Those who just show up without a plan Kathleen calls ‘drive by’ networkers … just stopping by to take a shot in the dark.
  • Sin #2: Making a Poor First Impression — Everyone meeting you for the first time ‘has a dialogue in their head’ about you within the first five seconds.  It’s either a good or bad dialogue. What you look like, how you’re eating … all the obvious and subtle details about how you come across.  As a beauty and fashion image authority yourself, you are certainly the experts in how to make that first impression a great one on your own behalf and shouldn’t worry too much about this sin.
  • Sin #3: Badge-Lookers — Kathleen reminds us all that when we meet someone, we’d better look straight into their eyes and not keep staring at their badge during the conversation.  Don’t you hate it when you’re talking to someone for the first time and they keep staring at your name badge?  Also, don’t treat people with any more or less importance according to the badge they’re wearing.  Everyone gets equal treatment … and everyone is a VIP.
  • Sin #4: It’s All About Me, Me, and Me! — You know what we mean. Mr. or Ms. Blah, blah, blah.  People love a good listener.  When you listen well, ask questions, and give the other person the floor, to take in their business, their needs, their points, you make an impression.  Nothing turns people off faster than self-centered yakkers.  Focus on ‘Tell Me about You” and the people you want to meet will be sure to ask, “Well, tell me about you”.
  • Sin #5: Card Sharks — Of course remember your business cards and always keep them handy for a moment’s notice BUT, don’t look desperate to hand out all 200 cards you brought that night.  It’s the quality of the connection – not the quantity of the cards that you manage to exchange.  You are building the foundation of a relationship with the start of each conversation.  A super-sonic card exchange at warp speed doesn’t serve.
  • Sin #6: Poor Follow Up! — Kathleen is most EMPHATIC about taking the time within 24 hours to follow up with those who you meet during your networking experience.  She stresses that, “the fortune is in the follow-up’ when it comes to getting the full value of networking”.  Carve out half an hour the next day to find some way to connecting with these newest influences on your future business (e.g. e-mail, phone call, personal handwritten note, flowers, whatever is appropriate for the person and occasion).  As a salon or spa owner, it certainly would be appropriate to invite a prospective client in for a tour, perhaps for a consultation … something complimentary and non-committal on their part.  If it’s another type of connection for your business, there’s nothing like inviting someone out to breakfast or lunch to start the ball rolling.
  • Sin #7: Not Keeping Your Word – Integrity! — In our busy lives, it is easy to over-commit ourselves and as a result, not be able to do something we said we would do for someone.  Since ‘Our Integrity Is Our Word’, we have to make the supreme conscious effort to ‘say it – do it’ with all of those we meet.  Kathleen’s own life philosophy is to ‘Be My Word’ and advises us all to stick strongly to that belief and not self-sabotage.  (Factoid: It takes 12 positive happenings to undo 1 negative behavior.  Moral: Keep Your Word.

No wonder I hated networking.  There are so many people out there doing it badly.  I’m looking for the good guys.

What have your networking experiences been?

When you comment on this post, don’t forget to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail ” box.  You can follow the conversation without returning to the blog.

If you found this article useful, get a free subscription to BeautyPRpro. You’ll receive a FREE copy of our ebook, “Life-Changing PR for Salon & Spa Owners” and receive each article post minutes after it hits the blog.

Feel free to click on the ‘Share This’ icon below to send this post to a friend or mark it at your favorite social bookmarking site.

8 responses to “‘Real’ Networking: Your New BFF in a Bad Economy”

  1. I recently started a networking group with two other women. Our purpose is the bring women together is a nonjudgemental forum where we exchange ideas, discuss topics of interest, bring in guest speakers and generally empower one another. We do not charge a fee and we sit in a round circle format. We did not want to be just like all the others where you primarily exchange cards etc. We love it and our attendees have found it worthwile. You can start one in your area quite easily. Send me an email for more information. I’d be happy to help.

  2. We are by nature networkers and helpers. We love our clients and when they hurt then so do we.. I want my clients to be able to have a job so I too can have a job doing their hair….So by realizing that our net worth is our network and networking with our community, we find the eb and flow of providing for one another. We host a game night in our salon. The game we use is called the Abundance Game. You can link in with me, Jessica Evrist on http://www.quattrospace.com and check out the game. It is an “Aha” experience that we find is helping us all to realize that in this economy “someone moved our cheese”.

    Another great idea I have is to share knowledge. I throw out most of the trashy magazines that flood the salon and pamper my guests with books to help the client learn more about how to take care of their needs. Whether it be about hair care, make up tips, or just a tiny book about “don’t sweat the small stuff”… they do find that they can transition in their lives with the good stuff instead of the gossip!

  3. Check out our article in http://www.YHCMagazine.com January 09 “local salon going green”. http://www.CaliforniaStylesSalon.com

    • admin says:

      Hi Jessica,

      Congrats on the coverage in YHC Magazine. Also congrats on getting into blogging to your clients. I’m so pleased to see the good start. Your website (and your philosophy) works to message.

      I’ll take a risk and offer a couple of thoughts on your first couple of blog posts. You might want to focus more on content that brings extra ‘value’ to your clients rather than serving to ‘promote’ California Styles Salon. Your website does a fine job of focusing on the business and that’s where the ‘selling’ should be. Your second post has that great photo of Jake that would be a great addition to the website section that features your staff and their bios.

      if you use the blog to focus more on ‘added value’ for your clients and sharing fun news, helpful health tips, healthy hair suggestions, educating them to product ingredients, etc etc. We wrote a post that has some great links to smart bloggers. http://www.beautyprpro.com/the-pr-power-of-the-blog-for-salons/.

      Keep up the excellent thinking and work Jessica. You are doing great and are a true adventurer. Glad we bumped into you on Twitter. Hope you enjoy our PR blog.

      Alex and Sharon

  4. Mary says:

    Love, love, love this article! Thanks for bringing out what is real for all of us in in our lives and business… we are interdependent!


    • Sharon Esche says:

      Thanks Mary. Being ‘real’ with people brings out the best. Thanks for the comment. We always love to hear what we do here has value to others. It’s all a great learning experience isn’t it? By the way, if you get a gravatar your photo will follow you around the web in gravatar enabled blogs such as this one. Check out our post Get a Gravatar

  5. Linda Bertaut says:

    Great job Sharon. This event was great and I learned a lot as well…even after years of networking as a business owner. There is always more knowledge to benefit from.
    Thanks for all of the wonderful work that you do!
    Best, Linda

  6. Linda:

    Thanks so much for your nice comments. I agree — there is always more for us to learn but we have to ‘get out there’ to learn it. Networking is a must but now we can make it for fun and productive by being sincere…and having great back-and-forth dialogue.

    Best, Sharon