Sunday, 17 July 2011

Networking - the merits of connecting locally

Networking locally has been a useful activity for us at Henmore, even though are clients are UK wide, in Europe and USA.  As a result of local networking we have:
  • formed associations with marketing specialists to offer a wider marketing service 
  • worked collaboratively on new projects with the people we’ve met 
  • been invited as a guest speaker at UK events and conferences 
  • strengthened relationships with existing clients 
  • gained many new business referrals that have generated new customers (thank you to those that have supported us) 
  • built a network of ‘champions’ who help us spread the word about our local marketing training events and programmes 
  • gained insight and feedback on our ideas 
  • kept abreast of issues and events taking place in our local area 
  • made some new friends

After trying various groups and organisations I have settled on a select few groups in my local region of Derbyshire and Staffordshire that suit my style.  I regularly visit these groups:  WiRE, Matlock Business Club, The Business Cub, at Chatsworth, Moorlands Networking, SPDTA.

I am the facilitator of Matlock Business Club, which has enabled me to observe many people’s approach and consider my own.

Here are few thoughts about networking:

Attend with an open mind, go with the flow.  Some people seem to judge an event by the number of business cards they collected.  After assessing the benefits to Henmore of our networking activities, I am not convinced of that as an evaluation criterion.

Be friendly – you would think this would be obvious!  Be friendly even to your competitors.  I’ve heard some horror stories of people slinging some mud at their competitors (worse still dissing them in the one minute slot).  Don’t go there . . .

Be open and welcoming.  Approach those on the edge of the room; invite them into your conversations.  As an extravert, I have to remind myself that some powerful business people are not necessarily natural networkers, so don’t overlook those looking on from the sidelines. 

Stay calm.  If you spot an influential business person please don’t go all gaga around them.   I’ve seen this happen and it is just weird.

Allow yourself to move on.  Some people will monopolise you so be kind to yourself, and to them, and move them on to someone else or request permission to continue networking in the room. 

Keep your business card in reserve.  I am not a fan of ‘card slinging’ networking events. Some people look for quantity rather than quality, but that doesn’t suit our business model.  Unless it suits yours, save yourself the hassle of unsubscribing from a million mailing lists and hold back your details until you are asked for them.

Introduce people within and across your networks – be the real-life face-to- face version of LinkedIn and Facebook.

Source and share in your networks.  If you need something then ask from within your network of contacts.  It sounds obvious, but if it is so obvious why do so few people do it? 

In conclusion, I offer a gentle reminder that your network of contacts is not just a place to push your own wares.

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