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[GBH VIP Tips] How To Get As Many Local Leads As You Want [UNRELEASED on PUBLIC]
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How I Grew The Largest Local Networking Group In Just 18 Months.
... Now We're 3X the size of the local Chamber of Commerce!
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"I Dare You!"

It had been a year since I stopped networking full-time.

Chairing the local chamber's marketing and communications committee, vice-chairing the programs committee, and leading a couple of other local groups was simply burning me out.

Worse still, I felt little was changing for all my efforts.

Deep down though, I knew there was a better way to connect people and believed if I just took enough "me time", I'd discover it.

Turns out though, my business friends had other plans. They began asking me to organize a "get together" . I declined figuring it would be too much work.

But they persisted. In fact (and I don't recall who said it) one of them dared me to do it. This was around October 2011.

Figuring "how hard could it be?" I started to plan our first event. When I say plan, I mean patch together a series of emails, some ideas surrounding the concept framework and a reason why anyone would want to attend.

Engineering An Experience

I wanted to build a community mindset and at the same time create something unencumbered by 'old school order' or overly burdensome process. I figured we'd take it back to basics and invite a group of people to come together in a social setting. It was also decided the traditional 'Pay For Membership' model needed a face lift too.

If you've ever considered producing an event of any size, one thing you need to manage is bookings or confirmations. Put another way, you need to manage RSVP's effectively and one lucky decision made early on in the process of putting together this first event, was choosing Meetup.com as our platform of choice.

Why I Chose Meetup.com

I'd love to say great thought went into the selection after carefully reviewing other platforms but that'd be a fib. Nope, it was a mad rush to get this first event produced and marketed and frankly I was in hustle mode and Meetup met the grade. It was cheap, easy to use and red. Yup, I liked the colour - hey, don't judge me until you've pulled a series of 18 hour days trying to get too much work into too little time.

With the event platform picked and a date selected I needed a venue. Again, necessity forced my hand and not knowing whether this whole thing was going to be a bust or something all together different, I figured we'd simply 'show up' at a local venue that served frosty beverages and had ample parking.

Cutting Through The Clutter

With a time and place now selected it was all hands on deck with the writing and the promotion. Of course we had Thanks Giving, Halloween and Christmas to compete with for attention and with the inaugural event planned for January 4th, we had our work cut out for us.

On the day I showed up with a name label for everyone who had RSVP'd - another cool feature of Meetup - there was also a basic business card drop box and a few speaking points to cover. I waited anxiously to see what would happen and wasn't disappointed.

Counting the business cards afterwards showed 60 people attended that first event just three days after New Year! Those attending later told me how much they enjoyed the new format, the less burdensome structure and you guessed it . asked me to do it again next month!

Rinse and Repeat

The next event (at the same venue, same time) was February 1st and 70 people attended. Same model as before, same great feedback and again, another request to host an event next month. That's when I had a sense I might be on to something and most importantly altered my approach to marking.

On March 7th, 2012 (less than 90 days from start) 165 people attended and that's when I really knew everything had changed. Although it wasn't called the Social Fusion Network at this time, this event marked the turning point and SFN was born.

Today there are 7 chapters. My first chapter regularly attracts 100-200 people each month and the newer chapters are following along nicely.

Every member agrees to accept email as their "payment" for membership so I've built a large local list of businesses who happily accept my emails (and those of our sponsors) in exchange for saving hundreds in membership dues.

It would be unfair to disclose 1st tier revenue here (it was NOT my focus) but I will say that I generated a nice healthy mid 5 figures in ancillary fees.

Bottom line though ... YOU GET A KILLER LIST AND A HOT RELATIONSHIP with the membership. Your "personal stock" goes through the roof and frankly you become a bit of a local celebrity.

The Mayor of my city asks to speak at my events, VIP's show up, people want to know you and basically it positions you for whatever you want to sell.

Here's the link to my Burlington Meetup so you can see I'm not making this up! Meetup is but one channel we use. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google +etc are all part of the mix.

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Be warned though ... if you want to lead a QUIET LIFE with no one recognizing you on the street, you might want to NOT do this. I regularly get recognized at the Beer and Grocery store. I learned it's very important to shave and dress tidily in public - LOL.
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