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?

What To Expect: The Profiles

  • HR
  • Recruitment (either one-off consultant or someone junior from a large recruitment company)
  • Graphic Designer (usually 2-3 of them)
  • Website designer (usually 3-4 of them, and apparently, they are all masters in all other digital offerings also!)
  • Accountants (sole trader or someone junior sent by a bigger Accountancy business)
  • IT guy (who will have some sort of local shop that can also fix your iPhones/Androids or in fact anything else you have electronic!)
  • Printing
  • Arbonne Consultant/Avon Consultant
  • Landscape Gardner
  • Carpet Cleaner
  • Stationary company (someone whom is hell-bent on selling even a pencil to the group)
  • Massage Therapist

Stereotypes of business people at Local Networking Groups:

  • The Magic One liner guy:  So don’t be stuck in a rut in your garden hut, call me Nick Cut for all your gardening needs!
  • The Person whom tells you that they have generated X amount of business just coming along to these groups.
  • The Busy-body, whom immediately corners any new fresh meat on the scene but loses interest in them the second they realise there is nothing they can sell to them.
  • The smiling recruitment consultant who tries to be everyone’s friend and is desperate to understand what businesses you currently work with so that they can start prospectively canvassing them as a client. The recruitment consultant here knows that small local businesses will barely be able to afford even a quarter of their fees however being everyone’s favourite friend could lead them on to working with a bigger company through a referral so they continue to stab away at it.

The Agenda: Elevator Pitch Hell!

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.

Who really benefits from local Networking?

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!

Put simply who do I think Local Networking groups work for:

  • People selling into a local B2C market.
  • Local physical shop owners/local charity organisations.
  • People whom have time (perhaps have had their business a couple of years and want to do more in a local area, get known by other businesses).
  • Small business owners whom can meet other business owners to talk about problems/often a bit like a therapy group.

Who they don’t work for:

  • Start-ups who don’t have a lot of time and don’t see their new business as a ‘hobby’ and are anxious to get some sales in.
  • People who are truly on their own and don’t have any other staff to manage the business in their absence at these events.
  • Companies whom are selling on a national level rather than local level.
  • People whom are in a “niche” globalised market.

Lead Generation via your website:

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!

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