Followers of this blog (previously in the Guardian Work section - read the archive here) will know that I've recently joined an exciting new business breakfast group that combines face-to-face networking with instruction in how best to use social media to grow your business. Yes HashtagConnect is taking the St. Albans start-up community by storm and, naturally, I popped along to the Red Lion Inn for its second breakfast meeting last week.
Over the customary cooked breakfast we had a vigorous debate about the merits of old-fashioned direct mail in an age of email and social media. Polly, a marketing consultant for start-ups, insisted in her 20-minute "profile" slot that direct mail was the new social media.
"People get so few letters these days," she explained, "that you can really get people's attention with a well-targeted mail-shot."
Steve, the affable roofer-turned digital coach, begged to differ. "It's almost Victorian," he said, aghast. "Like putting thatch on your roof."
I've been impressed by Steve's winning way of weaving roofing metaphors into his thinking on social media.
Polly's passionate advocacy of direct mail was not news to me - in fact, she'd cornered me at HashtagConnect's launch meeting. In the intervening fortnight she'd called me twice and emailed me a proposal. During the networking break, she poured me a coffee and asked how I'd been getting on with growing my business since we last met. I had to admit to struggling to find new prospects, especially as my lead one, Susan Ullage, buried me in HR process.
"What are you doing to target new prospects?" Polly asked pointedly. She then turned to the proposal she had sent me for a direct mail campaign. She could design and produce an eye-catching A4 brochure which she'd mail out to 2,500 "key decision makers" on her database. She promised to pin me down again after the meeting.
All through Will and Phil's "HashtagLearn" slot on how to set up a Google+ "Hangout", I found myself pondering over the merits of Polly's proposal. I rather tuned out of the session so remain mostly in the dark about Hangouts, I'm afraid. Any tweets or comments that can enlighten me would be welcome.
Once my fellow networkers had dispersed, Polly grabbed me over another cup of coffee. The price tag of several hundred pounds seemed a bit steep but she seemed to know her onions. "I'll put you on the seed list, of course," she said convincingly. This is technical marketing term apparently which means I'd get a copy of the mailing along with everyone else.
Returning to base yesterday after another breakfast meeting, I found a card from the postman on the doormat. Unfortunately, a letter addressed to me had arrived with £1.19 insufficient postage. Sandra was out playing tennis with her Friday morning ladies' four so, in the event that this was something important, I got back in the car and drove to the post office. Who knows - it might have been an invitation to a high profile networking event. Imagine my disappointment to find that the letter was my own mailing. Polly was sadly unavailable although back at my desk my inbox was flooded with outraged emails from "key decision makers" who, like me, had been responsible for paying their own excess postage.
I looked for a moment's distraction on Twitter. Right there on my feed was a tweet from Polly:
"Whoops - got the postage wrong on a client mailer. #MyBad"
Follow Geoffrey Wadhurst on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@gwadhurst