Ok, let me be honest about this, it is not that I detest networking groups or the concept of them – I understand the reasoning for it and understand it can be great for getting the up and coming one-man band graphic designers out of their bedrooms and into the world of meeting real-life business people… however, is it going to really work for you if you have a massive sales target to hit and you are interested in quicker sales in a globalized marketplace? Well the answer put simply is no. Don’t get me wrong you will meet a genuinely nice bunch of people, some of which you could even say would be great to form friendships with. Having said that, when you are trying to generate leads for yourself and your company in the short-term, you could very well be wasting precious energies, time and money.
One thing that networking groups tell you no matter their size or format is to keep consistent with coming along and building up those relationships with people so then they can refer you work. However, for a new business owner, this is firstly a risky concept as there is no guarantee of any work, plus time? There are not enough hours in the day as it is for someone who is literally doing everything on their own so how are you expected to be consistent?
Usually when you attend a couple of these groups, there can be some sort of structure, some more strict than others, however mostly at networking groups that take themselves seriously there is a magic minute round or 30 secs elevator pitch for you, to you know, ‘amaze’ people with your wit, whilst informing them of what you do for a living. Its not for everyone…
For a lot of people, the daunting prospect of standing up for any given length of time to introduce themselves and what they do is tough and I have seen some nervous and shaking intros in my time of attending networking events. Is it worth putting yourself through that pain? I mean, if you are a business owner, it doesn’t naturally mean you are an amazing presenter and true salesperson? Could it do more harm than good? My advice is that there are other means of professionally generating leads and not through cold calling or putting yourself through elevator pitch hell.
I think I can honestly say that I have found to have gained more personal friends out of local business networking rather than actual business referrals or deals, which really defeats the object of going along to them in the first place right? Having said that, for a very local business, I think showing face at these events is something that should be done and building up your brand in the community.
Whilst we live in a globalized world, local working groups as friendly as they may be are not going to benefit certain industries or certain professions however for a community magazine owner who is looking to bring on board advertisers, these groups could be very fruitful indeed!
My best advice I could give to any start-up or business who needs to push on with gaining warm leads in a globalized environment is to get your digital marketing targeted and your website design focused. Assess what your bespoke offerings are, your unique selling points and why you could be a better choice to use rather than that of your competitors. You don’t need to spend a fortune if you know who and where you want to get business from. Networking groups are not going to be for everyone but neither is LinkedIn or social media!
You need to look at the target market and where they will look for your products or services and how you can become accessible to them. A digital robust marketing strategy can be achieved and will drive leads to your website however you and your website have to be ready for it – once the traffic is coming into your website there are a variety of clever ways to covert those users into customers!