I’ve been business networking for nearly 20 years now and it’s easy to forget what a daunting experience it is for many people. Equally, it’s easy to become cynical about the power your network has to help you win those first and subsequent introductions ...
So, it's a pleasure to hand my blog over this week to Rachel Collar who, as a newcomer to self-employment, has quickly grasped the concept. More than that, she applies all the basic steps that I am sure will reap her dividends over the years to come.
It's been nearly a year since I uncovered the world of business networking. Then it was still only online. So, I got to quickly experience many formats. A few months later I got to attend my first in-person event at Business Buzz in Northampton.
Before attending, I felt full of self-doubt and imposter syndrome had crept in. But, once I was there, I was put at ease being greeted by a friendly host and they took the time to ask me about my business. It wasn't long before the host came to find me, with a contact he thought might be a useful connection. We got chatting, and it was nice to speak with another small business owner from the local area.
Following that first event, I left armed with business cards for potential 1-2-1 meetings. I got meetings set up and found they happened with ease once the conversation started, and they gave me a sense of confidence. Not only did I find the conversations useful, but my connections found them useful too, and I still even meet regularly with these key connections where we share insights and offer advice to one another.
I feel that the real magic always happens after the networking event, where those relaxed conversations transform into lasting relationships!
I saw the power of Business Buzz and the opportunity it presented. Being a visitor was both an uplifting and welcoming experience, but I wanted more and to get a piece of the action. So, I put my head above the parapet and met up with the local event host and stepped out onto a journey that would change my business journey – I decided to become a Business Buzz host.
I'm now the welcoming face of networking and of Buzz in Northampton, alongside my co-host Alison Mead. It's enabled me to build my local business connections whilst raising my profile locally.
Being a Buzz Host has put me on a road of discovery from finding new friends, through building amazing working and collaborative relationships to finding new skills ..., but mostly a road to a better way of working, where there is less selling and more support than you can imagine. I now feel more confident as a result of becoming part of the Business Buzz family, with the challenges of running a small business being far less daunting.
Networking has enabled me to grow my business, by elevating its profile & building brand awareness. One of the top pieces of advice I was given early on is that networking is not selling. After all, who likes being sold at?
For me, networking is about having genuine conversations and building trusted relationships that then lead to opportunities. I've now built a wider network of the right experts to who I can refer potential new business.
You need to have a networking strategy and it's an integral part of my marketing plan. I've had to be selective in what networking I do and find a format that works best for me. I like Business Buzz because it's informal and relaxed in style, allowing attendees to create a commitment themselves, and it's pay as you go. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but for many people, it offers a tonic to the strict regimes operated by many membership networking organisations.
I know now that networking is a long-term strategy as I've built my business, reputation, and credibility, making sure I'm remembered for all the right reasons. Networking delivers the best results when you think of it as a marathon rather than a sprint!
This is where I schedule one-to-one meetings with at least two people I met at the last Business Buzz meeting. These are more engaging when they take place over a coffee or virtual cuppa! It's a great opportunity to find out more about someone else's business or circumstances and also for them to get the measure of me.
The more of these meetings I've held, the stronger my network has become, the more trusted I become, and the more recommendations I receive.
If you'd like to learn more about referral marketing then do give me a call on 07970 638857 and let's have a chat and see how I can help you.