How to use networking to grow your business – I started my business networking journey earlier this year and have experienced the HUGE benefits for my business and personally.
Recently I’ve had lots of people ask me about my experiences, so I thought I’d write a blog about my learnings and just some of the networking opportunities either in the area local to me or further afield that I have come across.
A couple of points to note… Networking is all about relationships and supporting each other. So I have included information on networking groups that I’m a member of or have attended since January and ones that I want to support and I have also included others that I have come across and think might be worth a try. The list of networking groups is by no means exhaustive, there are so many opportunities out there and just by getting out there you’ll find more.
Online Vs In person networking
Online networking is definitely different to in person but I believe the principles are the same. Any good network session is structured, provides everyone a chance to introduce themselves and their business and provides opportunity for you to connect with people (and of course their business). People and relationships come first and business second.
What happens during a networking meeting?
Most networking group structures go along these lines…
- lead introduces and gives notices;
- a 60 second introduction from each attendee about their business;
- a spotlight or education section from one of the paying members;
- and potentially breakout rooms (online) or 121’s (in person) and then a round up.
Some of the sessions I have been to also provide opportunity for attendees to go round the room and say what they value about the group or how they have supported another business within the group. During these sessions it isn’t about talking about your own business, purely how you have helped another business which brings some great success stories and can be very encouraging. It also brings a level of accountability which is also great.
How to get the most out of a business networking session
I look at the the actual network meeting as a chemistry meeting. You get introduced to other business owners and decide quite quickly if you think you could get along/work with them. The all important thing about networking is the follow up and reaching out to people by having 121’s. I do believe that without 121’s (follow up meetings with individual business owners), networking is ineffective.
What networking opportunities are there?
There are so many networking opportunities out there both locally and further afield. I’d recommend trying as many as possible before you buy. In my experience networking can get you quick wins, but it is a long game. It is about nurturing the right relationships/friendships that lead to longer term business opportunities.
I have provided a list below of local networking opportunities that I think are worth trying. There is a mixture of single profession (only one person for a specific profession) networking and free for all (does what it says on the tin you will likely find that there others from the same profession).
You will need to try lots of different groups and work out what you feel is the most beneficial for you and your business. Sometimes you might be surprised by the people and opportunities you come across so best to stay open minded. It is also good to have a networking budget in mind because once you get going you’ll have to consider the cost as most groups that are worth being part of do cost.
That said as you are starting out take advantage of the low cost member meeting fees and free first sessions that most/all of the groups offer.
Zoco Networking – https://zoconetworking.co.uk/welcome
This is an incredibly lovely group and has LOADS of networking opportunities from speed networking, accountability meetings Mon/Fri and Monthly meetings, there are up to 11 sessions in total. Nick Blanchard who runs Zoco is extremely well connected locally and so supportive. I highly recommend attending at least one of his sessions!
The Really Helpful Club – https://www.reallyhelpfulclub.com/ The Really Helpful Club is a member network (currently over 15,000 members) who run fantastic education and networking events both on and offline and pull in some brilliant key note speakers. Definitely worth signing up to, it’s free (they also have a paid membership too which is £35 per month). It is a great online resource for business owners for both professional and personal networking.
WIBN (Women in business network) – https://www.wibn.co.uk/
WIBN is a women’s only single profession networking group, which means that there is only one person from each profession allowed in the group. They have lots of different groups in and around London. I’m a member of the Clapham group, so if you’d like to come along as a guest the drop me a line and I’d love to introduce you firstname.lastname@example.org
Latte and Live – https://latteandlive.com/
Latte and Live is an alternative online only networking group that offers monthly networking meetings, member only events, pop up shop opportunities and a great FB members group. Latte and Live is a UK wide networking group so provides opportunities to reach a much wider online community.
BNI – https://bni.co.uk/en-GB/index
BNI is a formal business networking business based on the principle that ‘Givers Gain’. It is one of the more expensive but the model makes it very accountable (online systems where you have to log recommendations, business wins etc) and get it right, as with all the groups it will definitely pay for itself. I have attended a number of meetings as either a substitute (if the member can’t make it you have to send a substitute) or a guest but never felt the right place for me.
Kingston Chamber of Commerce – https://www.kingstonchamber.co.uk/
Kingston Chamber of Commerce is a not-for-profit membership organisation they provide networking, training, advice and business development opportunities. The chamber host regular new and prospective member meetings which are worth attending to find out more.
The Athena Network – https://theathenanetwork.com/ I have never been to any of the Athena meetings but they are another single profession networking group. They are a very large networking group with groups all over the UK. Their meetings are usually over lunch time 12 – 2pm; I have some networking friends who go but I haven’t had any experience. Another one to look at and perhaps attend a meeting if it looks like something that might work.
I really hope this has been helpful!
In the spirit of networking I’d love to connect and have a 121 to find out more about you and your business! Just drop me an email and we’ll arrange a cuppa email@example.com
Want to find out more?
Check out my live ‘Business Networking 101 for Ambitious Business Owners’ with Networking Guru Nick Blanchard from Zoco Networking
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