Let me ask you two quick questions.
First, do you believe that strategic thinking is an important asset to accomplishing your institution’s goals? And second, if yes, how much time do you (or your team) spend on building strategies?
My guess is probably not enough.
According to a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, “Almost every leader wants to make more time for strategic thinking. In one survey of 10,000 senior leaders, 97% of them said that being strategic was the leadership behavior most important to their organization’s success.”
However, the same post indicates that “ … in another study, a full 96% of the leaders surveyed said they lacked the time for strategic thinking.”
Some lack the necessary time for strategic thinking; others are focused on the urgent rather than the important. This can, obviously, lead to misalignment between your actions and goals, or even worse, losing the vision of your event altogether.
The same reality doesn’t spare the economic development agencies that are forced to generate an increasing amount of results under the pressure of time—meaning more meaningful networking sessions, more valuable attendees, and more B2B interactions, yet less strategic thinking and planning.
What do you risk by skipping the strategy part?
As an economic development agency (whether territorial or sectorial), your goal is to provide an efficient platform for people to effectively communicate and start building valuable partnerships.
However, when you aren’t dedicating enough space to building a B2B networking strategy, you are running the following risks:
Risk #1. Unjustified waste of resources
One of the main reasons why you should set aside some time for strategizing is to make sure you don’t waste unnecessary resources on planning and running your B2B networking event.
Without knowing your global vision and how exactly you want to achieve and measure it, you’ll have an incomplete idea about the tools, money, effort, and time you need to invest in setting up the event.
For example, you’ll be more focused on planning and pouring resources into big B2B networking events, rather than aiming to improve the quality of your attendees’ interactions while keeping your event small (think quality over quantity).
Risk #2. Low impact
Without a strategy, there’s a greater chance that your efforts will result in feeble interactions and less meaningful business relationships.
Once you have a clear strategy on how to plan and run your B2B networking event, you’ll be able to choose the right format, which will generate a more powerful impact and more valuable connections for your guests.
Risk #3. Lack of real value
Obviously, you have a clear idea about your attendees’ profiles. But what if you could dig deeper and know even more about them, so you could more accurately match offer and demand?
Not having a clear B2B networking strategy means you’ll lack the necessary framework to assure the quality of your prospects, which adds no real value to your guests.
Risk #4. No tangible results
At the end of the day, what matters most in a B2B matchmaking event? The number of meaningful relationships people managed to build—you know, the type of connection that doesn’t end with just a business card exchange, but instead with actual follow up after the event, and maybe a series of common projects.
What you might get instead without a proper B2B networking strategy?
You’ll have a harder time matching the offer and demand, which will diminish your attendees’ chances of providing something valuable or finding what they’re looking for.
And since your guests will end up with weak (or nonexistent) business relationship prospects after your event, your institution will also experience the consequences of not generating tangible results.
Risk #5. Harder to measure and scale
When you don’t have a strategy, you don’t actually have specific KPIs to measure and evaluate your success.
Since you don’t have clear indicators to measure, you’ll lack the necessary knowledge and insights to understand what worked and what you should improve when planning your next B2B networking event. This will lead to the inability to replicate and scale the event.
Now that we’ve listed the risks of not having a B2B networking strategy, it’s time to review the quick steps you should take to improve your game (strategizing and thinking don’t have to be time-consuming).
How to set up an efficient B2B networking strategy
Building a powerful B2B networking strategy must influence both the way you are planning the dynamic and the real value your attendees will get from it.
Having this in mind, here are the steps you should follow:
Step #1. Always start with your end goal
Plan your B2B networking event having either a chronological or reverse order in mind. In other words, make sure both you and your team understand your institution’s mission and why you’re enabling these business connections in the first place.
Do you want to attract investments to your city, region, or country? Is your intention to enhance communication between sectorial leaders? Do you want to contribute to strengthening the bilateral relationships between countries?
Depending on your main goal, start planning the B2B networking event backward. Ask yourself what the results of this event should look like so you’ll be able to know if you achieved your number one goal.
What type of attendees should you attract? How should you structure the communication between your guests? By starting with your primal intention, you’ll be able to ask yourself the right questions and plan a B2B networking event that is well-aligned with your general vision.
Step #2. Know what your attendees are expecting
You can’t set up a powerful networking strategy without thoroughly understanding your guests and their expectations. People don’t come to your event just to meet new people and see what will happen. Most of them attend having clear goals.
They may want to sell something, create a business opportunity, hire or get hired, find sponsors for their projects, etc. If you know what your guests want, you can set up a meaningful networking experience that fits their needs.
In other words, if you truly know your guests’ motivations for attending your B2B networking event, then you’ll have the right guidance to work on your strategy.
Step #3. Determine the quality control mechanism
An inseparable part from the strategy is to decide how you’ll guarantee the networking quality, thus the results. Will you be sending special invitations? Will you be able to veto attendees who don’t seem to be good prospects? How will you determine their networking potential? Answer these questions and step forward in building your B2B networking strategy.
Step #4. Set up clear networking parameters
The craziest thing is to believe that if you ply your guests with enough snacks and champagne, they’ll have fun, interact, and generate powerful professional prospects.
Don’t forget that talking to strangers may be highly stressful for the attendees, and food and alcohol won’t change that.
Be sure to set up a psychologically safe and comfortable environment by guiding your guests through the entire networking process. We’ve covered this topic in previous articles [article #1] [article #2] [article #3].
Step #5. Agree upon the automation phases
One of the most important aspects of your B2B matchmaking strategy is to find ways in which you can save more time when managing the logistics. You may decide not to digitize and automate the entire planning, but each time, you may want to improve some of your systems.
For example, you can start by setting up a web page and a networking form for registration, and end up with automatic matchmaking between the offer and demand. Remember that this step will help you upgrade every single event and ensure the necessary quality and performance you need to achieve positive results.
Setting up a powerful B2B networking strategy shouldn’t take too much time or effort. It’s just a matter of establishing your priorities and not losing sight of your organization’s general vision.