Thumbs Up or DownI am going to try to give some business owners the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they don’t actually know they suck? Maybe they have skills from some time past and haven’t kept up with changes in technology? Maybe it’s a matter of perspective and experience? I don’t know…

What I do know is that it’s possible to have a decent business and not be very good at what you do. I have fallen for this and paid for less-than-satisfactory services a few times – so this is a word to the wise. Or a sound business strategy if you suck.

You have a business that offers a product or service to your ideal customer. You have spent some time identifying who your ideal buyer is and, as luck would have it, you have found a networking group or association where you see a room FULL of your ideal clients.

The wheels in your head start to turn. How do you get access to them quickly? Building relationships takes time. How do you get them to consider your product / service instead of some other company’s? Here’s the easy way: Become a gold- or platinum-level sponsor of that group.

Every legitimate group I have joined says they vet their sponsors. The leaders will stand in front of the room and gush about how great you are. Small business owners are notoriously squeamish about promoting themselves. Problem solved!

But there are two issues for the room full of prospective buyers. The leader who vetted your service may not have a lot of knowledge about other players in your niche or what might constitute a great service. Or the organization may needs funds so they simply take a cursory look at your website or someone else’s word about you, and poof you’re blessed.

So you are now thinking that sponsorship can be really expensive. But having access to room full of ideal clients is pretty valuable – and you are being spotlighted at every meeting, on the group’s website, and in their newsletter. It takes a prospect 7-9 “touches” before they buy usually. And you’re getting a lot of opportunities to touch your ideal prospects. Think about the average value of a sale and this could be a great investment.

On the buying end as a group member, it can be hit or miss. I have had some great experiences and some not-so-great ones. It’s easy to mistake nice people for being competent service providers. When a friend or colleague says your service is great, that’s social proof, which is a much more trusted source than your marketing materials and what you say about yourself.

As a service provider, consider the gold or platinum sponsorship level and decide if it might make sense for your business.

As a potential buyer of a service from a group sponsor, do your due diligence just like you would with any purchase. Don’t just take the leader’s word for it. Ask around the group privately and do some digging. Make sure the sponsor really is the expert they are promoted as – and that they don’t suck.