I hope you had a very Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukkah. My family had a great Christmas because we were all together. I’m not sure how many more of those we’ll have as our son has just finished college this month and is about ready to embark on is career in integrated systems technology with his freshly minted degree. We don’t know where that will lead him in the coming years. However, we’ve always told him to follow his dream and don’t be afraid to move to wherever he needs to go to do what he loves to do. Our two daughters are 20 and 16, so they will still be with us for a few more years as they finish school.

New Years is just six days away. Can you believe that 2013 is just around the corner? I don’t know if we will go over the fiscal cliff, or do I know what that holds in store for us if we do; however I do know that we all need to make more money in 2013, just to pay our taxes and our Obamacare bills. How do you intend to drive more traffic, or leads to your business next year? As you worked through your year-end planning, what have you decided to do to drive more leads and business in 2013?

We hear many conversations about social networking and social media. However, what about a little old fashioned face-to-face networking? The past couple of weeks I’ve been getting out of my office and developing some local Fort Wayne contacts. With all the articles, I’ve written on marketing, advertising, digital footprints, I think I may have missed the boat on one other important aspect. There’s nothing like making a personal connection.

I joined a few of the local networking groups in town. One group is Georgetown Plus Networking Group, and the other is Exit 25 Networking. Randi Lincoln (260-312-7862) runs both of these groups, and Randal Brubaker emcees the meetings; both are in Fort Wayne. These two groups are clearly the best of the networking groups in town. Their focus is on helping people and promoting each other.

I have donated eight copies of my book Navigating the Marketing Maze over the past ten weeks as door prizes. It’s one of my marketing methods and I have sold about five copies of my book because of the giveaways. Of the eight people who won copies of my book, how many of them will tell somebody else to buy a copy of my book? Word-of-mouth marketing is also a great way to build your business without breaking your budget.

On Monday December 17, I gave a 30-minute talk on marketing. My goal was to demonstrate my knowledge of the topic but I really wanted to leave each person with some information they could act on immediately. I had quite a few of the thirty-one people in the room come up and thank me for my presentation. I am happy to report that I had four new people come to that meeting. If you are in the Fort Wayne, IN, area on a Monday or a Wednesday, look me up. I’d be happy to take you to one of the groups and let you see how it works. You’ll be welcomed with open arms.

I’ve recently visited some groups that aren’t as well organized as the other two networking groups. I’ve learned what not to do with a networking group. I am planning to start one on the southwest side of town, that’s closer to where I live because I think there is a need for it on this side of town. If you think you might like to search out a networking group in your town, look for an open group — one that accepts everybody. Look for a group that helps promote your business as much as you promote theirs, and look for a group that is growing and always welcoming new people to the group.

The most important lesson that I have learned from participating with the best networking groups in the city is that after you meet the people in the group, you pick up the phone, call them and ask, “How can I help you, help me, help you?” Because after all, isn’t life really about helping people. If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want. I think we often forget that in this busy world that we live in.

Ultimately, networking can help you receive introductions to people that you might never have the opportunity to meet. I have also learned that it’s not necessarily about the people in the room; it’s about whom the people in the room know. Once networkers trust you, should one of their friends need your product or service, they will recommend you. You in turn can recommend them and the cycle continues and expands. Think about searching out a networking group in your area and about how you can help them, help you, help them. I hope you have a happy and prosperous New Year.

My website contains links to all the marketing articles I’ve written for the HVAC-Talk Newsletter. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my new book, Navigating the Marketing Maze, click here. If you need a branding consultation, a complete strategic marketing plan, or help with marketing services, call or send an email to discuss your needs.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers more effectively market their businesses without breaking their budgets. Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc. website.