Last night i spoke at an event for business women in Northern NJ. One of the guests was a CPA who is the managing partner of a small, local practice. She was lamenting that she has a significant amount of client work (that's the good news) and no time at the end of the day to devote to continue building the practice (that's the bad news).
I suggested that she stay very focused on her immediate vicinity and slightly expand the geographic boundaries as time permits. In other words, her best bet is to network with the people she already knows: her clients, her colleagues, and their csutomers and vendors. By staying within a well defined area, she can have a greater impact without a huge investment of her time.
It would really serve little purposefor her to traipse around the region, networking at every business event that is on the calendar. Instead, she can kill two birds with one stone by networking with clients. This increases her bond with them and at the same time they will open new doors for her, expanding her reach and enabling her to meet new people. By targeting business owners she already knows, it will be easier to schedule a date - perhaps breakfast or lunch - and they will be willing to help her as they already have a strong loyalty and connection with her firm. It won't take much convincing, and they will most likely be delighted to be an advocate for someone they trust and value.
One suggestion to all of you with smaller firms: Don't make yourself crazy trying to do it all. It is not efficient and most likely not effective anyway. Stick with who you know, and build from that core group of fans to generate quality word of mouth referrals.