Before I setup Goringe Accountants I spent a week attending as many business networking events as I could in Reading. This was an essential part of my market research prior to start-up. As a result, I was able to talk to many business owners. In particular I asked them about the current issues they faced, what the market was like for small business owners in Reading (as I worked in London) and information about my future competitors.
If you just view a networking event as a sales opportunity you may be missing out on a lot of the other benefits. There are many reasons why I attend a networking event, here are just a few of them:
- To hear a speaker, if the subject is of interest to me.
- To catch up with associates – many are now friends.
- An opportunity to get out of the office and get a wider perspective.
- Market research, to find out what potential clients are looking for.
- Meet potential new suppliers or associates.
- Meet potential referrers, and of course new clients.
Here a few tips for your next networking evening:
- Be friendly, and have a firm handshake (personal preference, but I always find a really limp handshake a bit bizarre).
- Find out if you have any common points of interest, i.e. don’t just turn the meeting into a sales pitch, as they will probably switch off and look for the nearest exit.
- Don’t make early assumptions, you can’t necessarily tell who will be potential clients, millionaires don’t all wear designer clothing.
- Try to mingle and meet new people, not just your clique.
- The number of quality conversations count, not the number of conversations.
- Follow up the meeting with an invitation to coffee or lunch to discuss how you can help each other.
How to choose the best networking event for you:
- Ask colleagues and clients to recommend successful networking meetings that they have attended.
- If you can’t string a sentence together first thing in the morning, then lunch time or evening events may suit you better than 7am breakfast meetings.
- Find out the type/range of people who normally attend. Some events can be top heavy with business advisors – this may be good for you, but may be annoying for the builder who is looking to meet architects or potential sub-contractors.
- There are lots of different styles of meetings, from the informal to heavily organised, e.g. speed networking or referral groups. If you aren’t sure which you prefer try a few to find the type that suits you best.
- If you belong to a business organisation, you may find that they already arrange networking events, so this may be a good place to start, e.g. FSB (Federation of Small Businesses), Chamber of Commerce or IOD (Institute of Directors).
I continue to regularly attend my favourite networking events; however, in 2011 we started our own quarterly networking events as a good introduction to clients to start networking. Many of our clients have never attended a networking event before, so we wanted to encourage them to try.
As it was such a great success, we will continue holding them on a quarterly basis. So if you would like to attend a friendly, informal networking evening, with scrumptious buffet at the Porsche Centre Reading, our next event is 6-8pm Tuesday 21st February 2012.
Let me know what your favourite networking meetings are, and what you look for from an event…