Business networking offers the opportunity to meet with business owners, typically at the small end of the spectrum. Whilst such businesses may not represent your target market, they do offer potential to establish sales partnerships under quid pro quo agreements (formal or informal) where you can promote each other’s services and refer prospective customers.
There are several commercial networking groups with local operations that you can approach (including BNI, BRX, Refer-On, Ecademy and 4Networking), local Chamber of Commerce and online groups such as LinkedIn, to mention but a few. Membership and meals might cost around £1,000 per year, down to a couple of hundred pounds. Membership may demand attendance on a weekly basis with positive contributions, or it may simply be a schedule of regular presentations you can attend at your leisure (what I call “coffee & doughnut” networking).
I get mixed reviews from clients on the effectiveness of business networking. Conceptually, business networking has a lot going for it - assuming you get a decent mix of buyers (referrers) and sellers. Problem is that the large majority of members have paid their fees to get business, not give it. Combine this with a regime where the membership is expected to make regular referrals, then the amount of “real” business being achieved can be limited.
I should add though that for some members, the benefit of being part of a networking group is social interaction with like-minded business owners, especially if you are a one man band. If this is you, then I’d recommend the coffee & doughnut networking groups, which are typically cheaper and will allow you to learn how to network, including getting your “elevator pitch” right.
If you don’t know, the elevator pitch comes, as you might guess, from the States. It relates to a scenario where you get in the lift (elevator) on the 30th floor and blow me, who should also step in but that CEO guy you’ve been trying to get in front of for the last year. So you’ve got 30 seconds to get him interested before you both get to the ground floor (where else can he go?!!) – your elevator pitch.
Actually your elevator pitch is best achieved by coming up with a 30 second summary of your Marketing Mix – your WWW as I review here.