As a relatively new business owner, ( first birthday last month – yay!) I still earn most of my contracts through face to face networking. It is time consuming and sometimes exhausting – extending my time spent ‘at work’ by at least a couple of hours either side of the day. Costs can range from a Pay As You Feel arrangement to hundreds of pounds a quarter.
It’s easy to adopt the scatter gun approach in the early days. This works for some, many successful business owners attend a number of different networking groups on a regular basis. But with some groups requiring a large joining fee and regular monthly payments this can be an expensive marketing plan. I quickly made the decision to join one group where I could invest my time in attending meetings and getting to know other members. This involved a lot of initial research to make sure that my final decision was the correct one, but once I had identified the right group for me I made a clear commitment. I still accept invitations to visit others as a guest and drop in and out of smaller, social networking groups. But I never let these get in the way of my ‘Alpha’ choice. Attending just one main group means that I can stay focused, build strong working relationships and it doesn’t eat into my time for client work.
So how do you know that you have found the right networking group?
First and foremost, it should be populated with your ideal client. Are the people in the room able to make use of your product/services. Do they have the purchasing power that matches your price point. Will your modus operandi suit their own approach to doing business.
Secondly, make sure that you are comfortable with the group structure and operating methods. I take a fairly relaxed approach to networking. I like to chat over coffee, discuss shared experiences and build longlasting relationships. This means that when I refer people I am confident that the two businesses are a good match, reliable and trustworthy. If someone approaches me for work I can speak with confidence on their business and understand their needs much sooner. Don’t try to force yourself into a group that doesn’t suit your working personality. The discomfort will soon show in your body language and you are more likely to give up attending meetings altogether.
Finally – and most importantly – are you picking up work? After a period of settling in, regular attendance and relationship building you should start bringing in clients. I review my income against the cost of my membership on a regular basis. If it is costing you more to attend than you are earning in revenue I would suggest taking a good look at whether you are in the right group.
This piece was written by Claire Davies: The Greedy Wordsmith. I am a freelance business writer helping business of all sizes create meaningful conversations through the written and spoken word. Support is provided by means of copywriting, editing packages, 121 sessions and small group workshops.