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Bates: In some cases, networking trumps social media

Published: Monday, April 21, 2014 4:35 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, April 21, 2014 4:36 p.m. CST

How does Kurt Rice do it?

How does Rice, owner of a Better Water Treatment Co., run a successful referral-based business in the competitive water softener industry? He doesn’t advertise and yet he gains new clients repeatedly. Enviably, Rice routinely receives orders at mixers, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and even at the chamber’s annual galas. Amazing. How? Is his product the cheapest? Does he have the best water softener marketing campaign in McHenry County? Does he have a can’t-be-missed storefront display with neon lights? Does he spend the recommended six hours a week on social media? Is his website the best in his industry?

Rice will admit that none of the above is true. However, Rice does one thing and he does it well: He networks. Rice rarely misses a ribbon-cutting ceremony and he seldom is absent from a mixer. He is at every Scramble. Why? Because Rice knows the effectiveness of networking and now in 2014 he has a totally referral-based business. Yet, Rice’s business life wasn’t always easy. He started his water treatment business in 2006. Home building was taking place and the future looked good. Rice got referrals from real estate agents who were actively engaged in selling homes. Then the unthinkable happened. The housing bubble burst in 2007 and proceeded rapidly toward a recession at the end of 2008. Here was Rice with his brand-new business as the sole supporter of his small family. While others in his industry stepped up the marketing, Rice stepped up his networking. He kept his overhead low, not expanding to a building, keeping his staff small, buying softeners on an as-needed basis, and taking good care of his used vehicles and customers.

Exercising good judgment and putting his time and effort where it counts, Rice’s efforts have worked for him. He has become top of mind in his industry through networking. Not the largest, not the best marketed, no Facebook, not the cheapest, just the best networked and people have gotten to know him, trust him and refer him. We all can be like Rice. It does take time, it does take effort, but networking is the most cost-effective, credibility-building marketing that can be performed by any organization. It is a necessity for those in business today and chambers are the best places to not only gain networking skills, but to develop business through networking activities.  

There are some great opportunities to follow in Rice’s shoes this month.  

The McHenry Scramble is April 25. The McHenry Area Chamber takes its Scrambles very seriously; after all we have been producing them since 1998. The chamber staff personally develops each table with care for all our attendees placing them with those we know are the best people for them to meet.  Register at www.mchenryscramble.com.

Mixers are plentiful this spring. Tonight is the Get Sharp Mixer at our own McHenry Microbrewery, Chain O’Lakes. The McHenry Harley-Davidson Mixer is May 6. Later in May is the Raue Center for the Arts multi-chamber mixer and then the grandpallooza of them all, the Gary Lang Auto Group Mixer. All mixers are from 5 to 7 p.m.

• • • 

Welcome to new members SCA Hair Salon and Soleil Dance Studio, Gina Swinney, Applebees, Scoops Dairy and Dogs and Midwest Door Services.

• Kay Rial Bates is president of the McHenry Area Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at 815-385-4300 or visit mchenrychamber com.

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