No time to Network?

Business Networking is everywhere. Groups are in abundance in most towns, cities and rural areas. In fact, if you wanted to be in a Networking meeting for all your main meals of the day, it’s completely possible and you could double book yourself if you so desired!

The term Networking can broadly be described as referring to a group of people who have interconnected interests. Where formal Networking for business dates back to, is a research job for someone with far more time on their hands than I, but Business Networking in more recent years has exploded. Why?

There are a number of reasons for this and certainly as human beings, many of our social needs, including making friends, gaining a support system, feelings of acceptance in a group and as an individual, can be met.

Systems of this nature exist everywhere and have done for time immemorial. Think of churches, school committees, sport teams, families, etc. As a Sociologist, social behaviour is deeply fascinating for me and Networking Groups offer us much to learn about the human condition and how we behave and learn to behave in order to experience some of the social benefits described above, namely acceptance.

But Business Networking gives us even more than this social amber nectar. It is accelerated marketing at it’s absolute best, that when done well meets our needs socially, individually and professionally. A sub group is created that involves trusted relationships whereby people can work together in a supportive, collaborative and mutually beneficial way. Powerful stuff isn’t it?

To not incorporate networking into your marketing strategy because of the cost or the time or because you don’t like groups, try and step back and remember what you gain by attending. When people feel over whelmed by the sheer choice of what meetings to attend, I always say, go to as many meetings as your time and purse/wallet can stand for no more than three months. Then find the group that will meet your needs on all the levels described (as much as is possible) and stay there. Make a commitment, turn up at every opportunity, get involved with the organisers, find speakers, deliver speaking sessions and bring new people. In other words, become part of the fabric that makes that group what it is and you will benefit tenfold. What is on offer, as described above, is gold for us social beings and all the needs that we have to function in a society.

So go and build your social and professional network and go and flourish!

 

New to Networking?

There is little else more daunting than setting up your own business even if you are not quite fully aware of this at the time of idea conception! It’s your first year and you probably aren’t aware of this right now, but you are about to embark upon one of the most learning experiences of your life. You are now going to become a PR and Marketing Team, Human Resources Department, Payroll, Web Design, Book Keeper, Copywriter, to name a few (and that probably doesn’t include the day job!) You are also about to be exposed to several ‘experts’ who know exactly what you need to do, how you need to do it and what you need to spend. They are likely to have the perfect service/product/knowledge for your business which will catapult you to the top. Oh yes….I’m afraid so.

For the mothers out there, it’s rather like when you’re pregnant with your first child and thereafter. Everyone else knows what’s best and everyone has an opinion. My most vivid memories were being told that I fed my baby to much and I was preventing him from sleeping and I also recall a seemingly endless stream of elderly women coming up to me while I was out shopping because my baby wasn’t wearing socks. I was infuriated! Did they honestly think I hadn’t put socks on his feet? Did they think I was purposefully being cruel? Did they not know I had put socks on him fifteen times already in the last hour just to watch him take them off? How do I stop over feeding my starving baby (who looked 3 months at birth?). The ‘experts’ are everywhere.

When someone new comes to one of our meetings, and we get lots of new people, many who have never been to another Networking Group before, we are aware of all of these factors. Any initial advice given, would probably go a little like this….

  1. Go to as many Networking Groups as money, time and your patience will allow. Find your space, stay there and commit to that group and be consistent. If you don’t know what your ‘space’ is yet, you soon will. It’s the place you feel most comfortable, most safe and most able to be yourself (in a nutshell).
  2. Don’t rush into any decisions about anything you need until you are in your ‘space’ and you trust the people around you. I would be very rich indeed if I had a penny for everything I have had pitched at me to purchase as a ‘need’ since I started running a business four years ago. We’re all different and so are our businesses. When you are looking for services, use people who are recommended. Not just once or by one person but get to know people who are used by lots of people in your Network. Be a smooth operator and watch people and how others interact with them. Are they consistent? Do they turn up regularly? Do they do a lot of business in the local area? We all have reputations, so generally people will protect them fiercely by providing a good service and rectifying any mistakes quickly and giving excellent customer service. I would also say as a general rule, avoid ‘experts’ and go for people who are experienced in their field and are in a constant state of learning themselves so they are up to date on their particular business knowledge.
  3. Join on-line networking groups like Facebook Business Groups. In a good one, you will be looked after, trusting relationships will develop and you too will benefit from being recommended. Banbury Business Networking is a fine example of a localised Facebook Business Group really working for the benefit of its members.
  4. People are people and they are no different to deal with than when you were employed. Human beings will always have opinions about other human beings. Meet someone for yourself and make your own judgement call. After all, we’re all different and one person’s hell is another person’s heaven.
  5. Finally, try and enjoy yourself and understand that everything will be in a constant state of change. The baby will sleep again. You will sleep again. As you grow, you’ll end up getting rid of some of the many departments you’ve become and you’ll be happy to have virtual PA’s, Book Keepers, Payroll. Being a person who finds delegating quite difficult, I never thought I’d have a Virtual PA,  but I do.  I’ve not met anyone yet who doesn’t say that their business evolved in completely different ways than they had thought it would. I never meant to set up a Networking Group with a friend….but I did!

For more information about our Groups, our Development Days and our Conference in September please have a peruse through our website or give us a call on 0844 870 9287

 

Top tips for an attention-grabbing introduction

Most networking events give you the opportunity to promote yourself to the rest of the group – and Networking Women is no different. At each meeting everyone has a minute to talk about their business and what they offer. Even for those with a lot of networking experience it can be daunting – so here are some tips to help you make the most of your minute in the spotlight.

  1. Sell yourself, not your business. It’s often hard to get across what you do in just one minute. Instead, think about promoting yourself and aim to get people interested and wanting to find out more about you. You can tell them all about your business in the resulting conversations!
  2. Ask a question. People don’t always want to know about what you do but what you can do for them. Opening your “pitch” with a question instantly gets people thinking about their own challenges and how you could help them.
  3. Use props. At a busy meeting, it’s a challenge to stand out from the crowd. Using a suitable prop – maybe a glove puppet, a hat or a magic wand – makes you more memorable.
  4. Show off your wares! Not relevant to everyone, I know, but if you sell a product, show it! One guest at Networking Women Witney sells jewellery and accessories, so she introduced herself by showing off an armful of brightly colourful handbags – and it got people’s attention!
  5. Rehearse – but don’t over-rehearse. Have an idea of what you want to say, and practice it a couple of times – but no more. If you over-rehearse it can come across stilted and lacking any passion. Same goes for reading from a script – instead stick to bullet points. They will keep you on target but allow you room to be enthusiastic!
  6. Keep it short. At Networking Women you get about a minute, which is plenty of time to make an impact. Keeping it short and sweet means people listen to what you have to say. Ramble on at your peril – and watch those eyes glaze over!
  7. Smile! However nervous you are, smiling relaxes the muscles in your face, makes your voice sound cheerful and gives the impression of confidence, even if you’re not!

Give these tips a go at your next networking event. We’d love to hear what difference it makes!

"So what do you do?"

One of the questions you’re often asked at networking events is “What do you do?”

I used to say “I’m an alternative health practitioner” but recently at Networking Women meetings I’ve been saying something like “I help women recover from the symptoms of stress, anxiety and exhaustion.” I’ve noticed it really makes a difference to how people react to me … instead of their eyes glazing over with boredom or confusion, they start asking me questions – how do I do it, who can I help, can I help them with their stress please?!

That got me thinking, and I realised that introductions are like most forms of marketing really, aren’t they? In those few seconds when you first meet someone, you’re marketing yourself – so instead of selling the features of your business, promote the benefits it offers to your potential customers!

It’s common sense when you think about it, and we can all apply this to ourselves, whatever our business. For example, an accountant helps save you taxes. A life coach helps you fulfill your dreams; a sales expert helps you double your turnover; a car mechanic helps you stay on the road. One of the best introductions I ever heard was a guy who said, “I can make your reputation soar!” Who’s not going to want to find out more with a hook like that?!

So have a think about your business and the benefits you give your clients – and then turn those benefits into a one line introduction. And next time you’re asked, “What do you do?” give people a good reason to want to find out more!