Successful networking develops a circle of contacts and associations, useful for business. The word ‘networking’ provokes terror in some people, believing they’ll be accosted by assertive people “forcing” them to take a business card! Whilst this type of individual does attend events, the majority of business contacts regard it as a means of relationship building, making a connection or meeting new friends. Put simply, networking should be viewed as just one of the methods available to form professional relationships and exchange information with people who share your vocational and professional interests.
It’s not necessarily about the direct business they can supply but more about who they know that may need the services you can supply. Your network acts as your personal sales force, referring or recommending your business to their network.
Not only does that sound good for business but it actually works. There are many business network groups available throughout the UK (and worldwide). If you don’t enjoy an event or feel it failed to provide any useful connections, visit a different one. For example, some women prefer “women only” groups, others prefer mixed events. You just have to try them out and see what works best for you and your business.
Networking is a great cure for feeling isolated
Tamsen Garrie of Alpha Associates runs a Clinical Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy practice based in South Wales. She discovered that a combination of meetings and online networking suited her business.
Having moved to Cardiff where she knew no-one and with no previous knowledge of running a business, Tamsen experienced a sense of isolation, sitting in her home office, waiting for the phone to ring. Of course, it didn’t and the nature of Tamsen’s service ruled out cold calling. Who would appreciate a call asking ”are you depressed?”, or “do you have low self confidence?” Tamsen was forced to seek alternative ways of generating client leads.
Someone mentioned networking – something she’d had never heard of! In April 2007, Tamsen she visited a local 4Networking meeting. The people she met were in similar situations and through the 1-2-1 appointments facilitated by the meeting format, Tamsen began to make connections.
When Tamsen met Brad Burton, Managing Director of 4Networking, she says “I was blown away by his enthusiasm and ‘can do’ attitude. His vision for 4Networking was to build a joined up national business network to assist small businesses like mine to develop. I was completely sold on the ethos and concept in a ten minute 1-2-1 meeting!”
She fully utilised the online aspect of 4Networking (www.4networking.biz), setting up a comprehensive business profile and getting involved in the online community. Tamsen learned from the experience of other small businesses, received invaluable information and support and developed the insight, knowledge and confidence to develop her own practice further.
After about three months, Tamsen booked her first client through networking. Once people began to understand the benefits of Hypnosis and how it could help them and their families, people began referring more clients. One year after starting her business, Tamsen calculates that 50% of her income has come through networking connections, which only required a small initial outlay. An exception and supportive investment.
Networking is a great way to find new clients
Alan Young, owner of 1st Edition Accountancy Ltd, saw an amazing 35% expansion in his business within just 3 months due directly to networking. He gained new clients locally and nationally. For the first time ever, Alan now has clients he’s not yet met! He’s convinced that the more he networks, the greater the benefits to his business.
Simon Thornton from “My shop on the Web”, has also gained a number of UK-wide clients, solely through online networking and meetings.
Gill Bray, Business Hat has developed client relationships that she anticipates could increase the business’s previous income by over 100%. All this for a “small initial outlay” whilst enjoying networking meetings and developing online contacts.
Networking is a great way to build confidence
Tim Matcham, owner of Garden Design provides a different type of success story. Networking has provided him with the confidence to try new marketing ideas and challenge some of his old thinking. It led Tim to sponsor a local film festival with outstanding results. He now sponsors their whole annual programme and is looking to sponsor the local rugby club. Both methods give something to the local community, whilst providing excellent business publicity.
Could you do something similar?
My local Chamber of Commerce regularly reports similar success stories achieved via its networking events. Another group publicised that someone had earned £10,000 worth of business, simply by “sitting next to the right person” at a networking lunch.
Since beginning to trade earlier this year, I now regularly attend a variety of events, mixed and women only. My personal network has increased enormously, I’ve received referrals from unexpected sources and the benefits to my business are immense. Without networking, I may never have considered or discovered some potential clients. Would my business have developed so quickly? Definitely not.
The possibilities of increasing your business via networking are endless. I leave you with one question – can you afford not to get involved?
To find more networking groups, just type business networking into Google.