So, what do you say when you get asked about the value of business networking?
Well the easy answer is that it is all about relationships – people buy from people as a rule, particularly when it’s service driven or the a high-end transformational business package like the ones I provide – so the aim is to build up connections with people as you never know when they may either need you or recommend you.
The trouble with some business networking groups or events is the time and financial costs. I’ve heard tales of people who joined a group in good faith and then were hassled and told that they needed to attend more or they would be asked to leave – honestly what kind of rapport does that kind of attitude help to build?!?!
I’ve also wanted to join groups but their meetings are always at a time which is inconvenient and which seem set in stone. Time is a precious commodity to entrepreneurs and it’s not always that easy to give up time which could be spent serving your business in other ways.
So when you are faced with problems like these what do you do?
Set up your own of course!!!
It’s very early days for the group I’m a co-founder of but for anyone thinking about going down this route, here’s my handy guide to setting up your very own business networking group:
1 – Make it local.
Us humans tend to be sociable souls who like getting out and talking to people, particularly when there is a message to be given like I’ve got a fab business, come and talk to me!
2 – Start off slowly
You don’t know from the outset who will be interested so how about starting off with your own local community page on Facebook? It’s free to set up, you can make your own rules as Admin and you will be providing real value to your local community. I started by setting up a local page for my village which has grown to 730 members. I’m one of three Admin (make these people you like and trust as you’ll all need to pull together at times) and we have a one business post a week for local businesses with a request to make it interesting and to explain why we should think about spending our hard earned cash with them.
3 – Expand into business services first
It was apparent early on that there was an interest in a business directory. Nothing happened for ages but I got roped in on a discussion one of my fellow Admin about working with colleagues from our neighbouring village to pull together a business directory for all the local businesses. The amount of recommendations people ask for on our community page made it clear that there was a definite need for this service.
4 – Build your audience
Luckily for me one of my co-founders was around to do a serious amount of legwork, contacting businesses to ask them if they would be interested in being part of our directory. A Facebook page was born and we added both businesses and local people and encouraged advertising. Anyone on my local page who broke the once a week rule was directed to the new page.
5 – Take a big leap forward
Once we knew there was interest and engagement, we took the plunge, organised a venue and set a date!!
We used Facebook posts to tell people and posted regular reminders and then sat nervously in the venue on the day waiting for people to turn up.
We got great feedback and we’re doing it all again.
We picked the right time for everyone – at the end of a day’s work
We picked the right venue – a pub
We picked the right cost structure – none as the pub owner was only too pleased to have a few more people in on a quiet night.
So there you have it, there will be different approaches but this is the one which worked for me.