There are countless networking organisations you can choose to join, from one-off groups to large nationwide – or even international – franchises. Business networking is so popular because it works.
If you are new to networking or not exactly sure how to get the most out of it, here are a few tips:
- Take time to research the right group to join, so you can be sure you will enjoy going along and that the group will be beneficial to you.
- Choose networking events that fit with your schedule. If you aren’t a morning person, don’t opt for networking breakfasts.
- Take time to fix up one-to-one coffees with members of your group so you can get to know them and build up a rapport. Don’t forget that people like doing business with people they know, like and trust.
- Don’t expect to win new business immediately. (See above point.)
- Don’t overstretch yourself and join too many networking groups. If you overcommit yourself, you won’t really be able to spend enough time investing in getting to know the members of the various groups you belong to.
- Think of networking as something to enjoy and not as a chore. I have belonged to a business club for several years and I really look forward to going along to their events. (And I can’t say the same of other groups I have experienced – that’s why you need to choose your group with care.)
- Networking is a marketing investment for your business, so don’t say to yourself: “I can’t afford to join a networking group”. In the past 18 months, for example, I have won business from my group that’s worth four times the amount I have spent on networking fees and events. And I have met some great people along the way.
- Networking is not just about winning new clients. It’s also about making useful contacts to help progress your business.
- If your group expects everyone to do a one minute pitch, take time to practise and perfect your 60 seconds. Remember: people aren’t interested in what you do. They want to know how you can help them. So, I don’t say “I am a marketing copywriter”. Instead I say, “I can help you raise the impact of your marketing communication. Think benefits, not features.
- Remember to take your business cards.
- Make a point of finding out about the person you are sat next to. Ask them lots of questions. Don’t talk about yourself.
- Remember to follow up with contacts you have made.
What’s your experience of networking? How did you go about choosing the group that was right for you?