How To Network Effectively
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Having the right business contacts can really grow your business and open doors to new opportunities, and therefore I feel networking is so important for any business. It’s very important to choose the right network group for your business so I’ve added some links to network groups I’ve had personal experience with and that really work.
The first thing I do before attending a network meeting is ask who will be in the room, i.e. what type of businesses attend the meeting. That way I can go prepared, so I target the right audience.
How to make the most out of networking

There’s no point in telling a group of trades people what you’ve done for a financial business and vice versa, they just won’t get it. I’m always prepared to give a quick 60 second pitch, and only choose one thing my business does. The reason for this is a person will only ever remember the first or second thing you do so it’s important to do your research first by asking questions of the organiser. I never go into a networking meeting to sell myself. I’m genuinely interested in people and love learning what they do so make genuine connections that become friends over time, so we really want to help each other’s business. When I meet new people, I ALWAYS ask them what they do first. People love telling you what they do, so I LISTEN and never INTERRUPT.

I ask questions if there’s anything I don’t understand as this shows interest. It’s inevitable they will ask what you do too, and this is when I will start telling them about what my company does. We end up exchanging cards and keeping in contact. It’s very important, and I can’t stress this enough. NEVER sell at a network meeting. They are not there to buy your goods or service. They are there for the same reason as you. Yes, they want more business. Yes, they need more clients, but they may not necessarily need what you have. This is why it’s so important to listen to what they say and if you know of anyone who could do with their services or want what they are selling, then REFER them to the people you know once you’ve learnt more about them. Don’t expect anything back as they won’t necessarily know anyone who needs what you do. However, think about it. If you refer someone to this person and they gain a new client through you, they will be singing your praises to people they know who in turn will know other people. This is how word of mouth advertising works. This is how small businesses advertise as we don’t have massive budgets like larger brands and companies. Also, don’t expect after going to one meeting you will make such a good impression, they will remember you, trust you and refer you.

This takes time. However, it is a quicker way of growing your business against Social Media advertising.People buy people. If you come across as SALESY – people at network meetings will avoid you. I go with the aim of speaking to two or three people as I know I’ll never get around to them all. And imagine if you are trying to speak to everyone, you’d have probably 1 minute per person and you won’t come across as genuine, just someone who wants to get as many contacts as is available! Once you’ve met them a few times, or if you feel you can help them but there’s not enough time at the meeting, then arrange to meet up for a coffee to find out more about them. This is also an opportunity for them to find out more about you. One big mistake I made when I started networking was when people handed out their business cards, I’d take them all! Then I’d get home and forget who they belonged to! A good tip is if you are particularly interested in learning more about a person, write a little note on the business card so you don’t forget. I personally have a spreadsheet with all their details and have a comment section on where I met them as well as the reason why I thought they would be a good person to meet up with. This helps me remember so when I do make contact, I at least have some idea of what they do.

If the company has a website, I make sure I visit the website to find out as much as possible. Above all, be yourself, smile, be genuine. Always do what you say and follow up with what you said you’d do. Below are links to some successful network groups I’ve personally found have worked for me and other businesses. Please note, this list is exhaustive and there are many others out there just as successful, some free and some not, These are just a few of the ones I’ve personally found to be helpful who pass on business. Happy networking CarolUseful links Federation of Small Business has some free networking sessions, free legal resources, FSB for a small business is like having BIG business back up with HR resources and much more. (Keith Heffernan is the man in the South West area) Bristol Small business network group on Facebook free and run by business coach Jo Richings who is one of the best business coaches I’ve met. Jo runs this Facebook group in the Bristol area.…

BNI Global – great for small business owners and they have a great business model most follow as it works (specifically for the trade as they gain the most out of this but it works for all business types you just have to ensure you join the right group for YOUR business so don’t join a BNI group who have mainly Accountants for instance if your business is a trade business and visa versa). Click on the link below and find one near you and they are international. SMBN (Single Mums Business Network Group) – if you’re looking to connect with likeminded women and you don’t necessarily need to be a single mum then this has a very affordable joining fee and you will get all the help and support you need, Julie who runs it helps business women with her vast experience. Highly recommend this group.

Business Chamber of Commerce There’s loads of business support out there for small businesses. I’d also recommend you join or look at contacting your local Business Chamber. I’m a member of the Weston Business Chamber and am a volunteer and help with their admin. It’s well worth it as they have many FREE resources, help and advice. The list above are the ones I’ve personally had success with and the list is exhaustive and depends on the area you are in. I’ve not included the many who meet face to face or those who are local to me only. I’ll be adding to the list as I go along.

If there are any you have attended and personally had success with, please drop me an email and I’ll add them to the list.