Networking events allow businesses and organisations to meet, network, learn and do business directly or indirectly by referral. It’s about relationship building.
Networking IS NOT ABOUT selling.
Networking IS ABOUT developing good relationships with like-minded people.
Networking is about sharing best practice and learning from others. It’s a two way street where you look to form relationships where you support each other, share best practice and support each other on your journeys.
These are my TOP 7 TIPS:
If you are new to networking try out lots of different events before committing to becoming part of 1, 2 or even 3 groups. This will obviously depend on your marketing budget and the amount of time you can devote to networking and developing your business in this way. There are a variety of breakfast, lunch and evening networking events. Some require more commitment than others.
The events you choose to attend on a regular basis must:
Membership Groups are generally more structured and organised than Ad Hoc Pay As You Go Events but all have their advantages and disadvantages – you need to find a good fit for you and your needs. Ask other business owners if they can recommend and events that are good for their business.
Make sure you go as you! Don’t try to be someone else. Business attire is much more relaxed these days so don’t feel like you have to be “suited and booted” or wear crippling heels if it’s not YOU. There’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable in a situation where you may already be a little nervous. If in doubt, see tip 3!
Different networking organisations have different ways of communicating and levels of information that they provide in advance of a meeting.
Don’t be afraid to ask the host for details before you attend. This could be anything such as where to park, what to wear, who else will be there. Make sure you know where you are going, parking availability if you need it and leave plenty of time for traffic issues/weather etc. No question is a silly question and the host should be happy to support you in any way they can.
Put yourself out to find something in common with the people you meet – this will give them a reason to remember you. PLEASE remember nobody likes being sold to – so as well as explaining “briefly” what you do show interest in what the people you meet specialise in. Asking them questions will lead them to asking you about your business.
If you swap business cards, connect on LinkedIn or are given any literature make notes about when and where you met, anything particular they are looking for, interests, holiday plans, animals, kids etc – this really helps in remembering their name but also if you see them again you will have something impressive up your sleeve for a future conversation starter – people really do like to be remembered.
Does the group offer other ways of engaging as well as the meetings? Newsletters, social media groups? These can be great ways of engaging whilst raising your profile and brand recognition within the group.
What’s your “WHY”? Why do you do what you do and how does this help others. For example, if you sell pensions, don’t say “I sell pensions”, say: “I help people plan for their future”.
At some events you will get a chance to speak. This may be for a limited amount of time – 40 seconds, 1 minute or maybe longer. This could be to the whole room or around the table you are sitting at. If you don’t
Different events have different rules – if there is a time constraint try to stick to it and do not ramble on.
Prepare what you are going to say in advance to make sure your message is clear and simple to understand. This should have a beginning, middle and end:
The Beginning – who you are and where you are from
The Middle – what you specialise in and how you can help the people listening to you.
The End – how they can contact you – direct them to your website if you have one.
Try and be happy and relaxed – not everyone is comfortable with speaking to lots of different people but believe me the more you do it the easier it gets.
It’s a good idea to practice an “elevator pitch” but you don’t have to have a script, no one knows more about you than you so don’t worry!
This is really important – from the cards/literature you have collected in Section 4 and in compliance with Data Protection Rules set up a system to record the details of the people you meet, when, where etc – this will be useful for contacting them and also in monitoring what networking activity is most beneficial to you and your business.
A nice message to thank somebody for their company over breakfast/lunch is nice but PLEASE do not be tempted to bombard people with your sales material – remember networking is not about selling it’s about relationship building and as in any other relationship in life, people want to know, like and trust you. This takes time and as you develop relationships, when they need what you provide, you’ll be the one they contact.
1:2:1 – if you are really interested in a particular person’s business and would like to know more why not ask them to meet up for a coffee and chat – this is a great way to develop good strong business relationships. A visit to their premises (if they have premises) can be a great way of getting to know how their business ticks.
When you have decided which networking events you like attending and that you think would be a good place to get to know more about the attendees and their businesses – join up and attend on a regular basis.
Continuity of attendance is key to the success of using networking as a productive marketing tool. Networking is not a quick sales fix and it really does take time to become known as an expert in your field – sometimes even months – do not rush it let it develop naturally.
If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more advice, contact our expert* Claire on LinkedIn.
*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.
Claire Sutherley, Managing Director, We Are Wakefield Ltd. We Are Wakefield is the fastest growing business community in the Wakefield District, joining the dots between business, education, local authority, culture and the VCSE sector.