What is Business Networking and what’s in it for me?

Defintition: Business Networking
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia
Networking is a socioeconomic business activity by which businesspeople and entrepreneurs meet to form business relationships and to recognize, create, or act upon business opportunities,[1] share information and seek potential partners for ventures.

Business Networking is a regular event or business meeting whereby local business owners and business representatives get together on a regular basis to ‘network’. The ‘process of networking’ is to ultimately build relationships with others who you can refer and recommend to your clients and others can refer and recommend clients to you.

The meetings usually last anything from an hour and half to two hours and many groups meet either weekly or monthly.

Many groups are rather informal where you can turn up as and when you want too with no regular commitment and just pay a small fee.

Some groups and organisations require a weekly commitment from you to attend and you pay an annual membership fee, many of these types of networking events also have a one person per profession per group policy.

The positive to attending a group regularly is you will quickly build relationships and make new connections; you will get to know the other members sooner as you all meet on a regular basis.

Some groups meet first thing in the morning aka breakfast meetings but in my opinion its not about the breakfast or the food, its about being able to network prior to the working day, for many this is a great time to get out there and network as it does not interrupt your schedule too much. Other groups will meet for coffee mornings, lunchtimes and some after hours/in the evening.
It’s about finding the time that suits you and your business and the right group of people.

Business Networking should be part of your marketing in your business.

The logic behind going along to a networking event is to:
Build relationships
Expand your Contact Sphere
Find others to connect and collaborate with
Networking colleagues will usually recommend their clients/contacts to you
Increase business from referrals/recommendations
Improves presentation and speaking confidence
Increase sales and profits

What happens at a Business Networking Event?

Open Networking: when you arrive, time to go grab that coffee and chat to the others at the event.
Introductions: The meetings are usually ‘chaired’ or ‘led’ by one person and they will ask each person in turn to introduce him or herself.

Elevator Pitch/Weekly presentations/one minute presentations: This will be your opportunity to stand and present yourself and your business, it’s important to not sell to the room!

Feature Presentation or Guest Speaker: A member will usually take this ‘hot seat’ and do a presentation on their business, this is usually for anything between ten and twenty minutes, they may have props, visuals, examples of work etc. to showcase to you. It’s the perfect opportunity for a business to present more than they do in a one-minute pitch.

These are the main parts of most networking events, if it’s a referral organisation, there will be a part of the meeting where there will be a ‘positive contribution round’ where members thank one another for business passed that week or they will refer business to one another in the room. Some groups will have an open forum ‘Q&A time”.

Main types of Networking Events

Informal:
General business networking groups who may have many in each profession.
Infrequent meetings usually once a month.
No commitment to attend regularly, downside is you will find it hard to build relationships with others.
Often, no set agenda or opportunity to ‘present’ your pitch.
Sometimes they are more social networking than business orientated.
Guest Speakers may present to the room about specific business issues or topics.
Small investment of meeting fee to cover room hire and refreshments usually paid to the group as and when you are present.

Referral Organisations:
Meet often i.e. weekly usually breakfast meetings.
Members are encouraged to work within the room, keep business within the room.
Attendance is fairly compulsory as its known that the more you meet with the same group of like minded people, the quicker you can build know, like and trust.
One member per profession/category so there is no competition around the room.
Often led by a ‘leadership team’ who are experienced in networking and business.
Business passed is usually high and regular due to the nature and collaboration of the relationships being built over time.
The members become your ‘sales team’ looking out for business for you during their daily lives.
In these more formal networking groups you will establish and build long-term relationships with other businesses.
Membership fee is usually charged which can be seen as part of your marketing budget.
Your schedule will need to allow for you to take this time out of your business on a regular basis.
The group must be a good fit for you and you must feel comfortable speaking in the group and indeed recommending the other members to your contacts.
In this kind of networking group, it is all about what you give you will get back in return.

Professional Organisations and Corporate Networking Events
Usually run quarterly by business organisations i.e. Chamber of Commerce, FSB, Banks, and Companies etc.
Often have a theme or are industry specific.
Usually free of charge or donations to chosen charity.
Good opportunity to meet other professionals.
No set agenda or presentations by the delegates, often only the guest speaker has the floor to present.

Why should you go out networking locally in person?

Networking is about being genuine, real and authentic, showing up, helping others first and building relationships. Know, like and trust.

Business Networking should be part of your marketing in your business.

Build relationships
Expand your Contact Sphere
Find others to connect and collaborate with
Networking colleagues will usually recommend their clients/contacts to you
Increase business from referrals/recommendations
Improves presentation and speaking confidence
Increase sales and profits

Visit as many groups as you can in your locality that are attractive to you, notice the energy in the room, what kind of businesses are represented, content and value of the event, is it just about business or is there an element of self development or learning.

Help others. Share your skills and experiences with others in the networking group.

Be a Key Person in Networking, to build and enhance the know, like and trust, be the person others come too for advice or help, suggestions or just to run ideas past.

Follow through. If you say you are going to do something i.e. introduce someone to a client/friend/contact then do it, if you say you want to help someone in your group then do it, if you arrange to meet up for coffee/121 then do it! If you are passed a referral/business lead in the group, then follow up!

What is a 121 in networking? A 121 is an arranged date when you meet with your networking colleague outside of your networking event. During the 121 you will both talk about your businesses, whom you are looking to do business with and what you offer in your business. It’s a great opportunity to find out more about one another and to see if you could collaborate or introduce valuable contacts to each other. *Never assume that some of the people in your group cannot refer to you or help you, you never know who knows whom!

What do I need to take?

Positive friendly attitude.
Business cards and any business promo literature you have.
Notebook and pen!
Yourself, dressed for success and ready to make those connections, have those conversations, be open for collaborations and ready to add networking to your marketing portfolio.

If this is something you struggle with, I can help, I have published a FREE EBook on my top tips for:

Finding a networking group that works for you

How to open up conversation

How to prepare for your first networking event and come away feeling uplifted and motivated to make networking a part of your marketing strategy in your business.

For a free copy, sign up here: https://mailchi.mp/efc5d9795513/boss-your-networking-free-ebook

Go forth and Network!
Turn those connections into profit!
Go from Newbie to Ninja!