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Networking is absolutely vital to the growth of any business. There are many obvious benefits; it can help you generate new leads, make useful connections, share good practice, build your reputation and much more. But sometimes there are barriers to successful networking – particularly for smaller businesses – such as lack of time, budget and confidence. We understand this and so we’ve launched GO Get Networking, a new initiative aimed at smaller businesses in and around Bath.
What makes GO Get Networking different to other networking groups?
Over the last few years, our own experience has been that networking groups can be expensive and time consuming, often involving costly membership fees and too many meet-ups. We wanted to find a simpler and less formal way of networking, and so we decided to design our own. GO Get Networking is different to other groups because:
- It’s specifically intended for smaller businesses
- There are no membership fees and it’s completely free to attend events
- Events are held once every two months, in a relaxed setting
- We meet at 9.30am and finish at 11.00am, giving us enough time to do some useful networking without eating too much into working hours
Typically, the format is an hour of mingling followed by a 10-minute informal talk given by a group member, or a guest speaker, on a subject that is of interest to others (eg a useful service or helpful app to support your business). This is most definitely not about hard selling but communicating useful information.
The benefits of networking
If you’re not sure what’s in it for you, then consider some of the benefits of networking:
- It enables you to generate leads and make connections (eg with potential customers, suppliers, partners)
- It gives you the opportunity to share good practice, useful information, contacts, successes/failures, ideas and resources
- It helps you stay on top of local business developments and market trends
- It opens you up to new opportunities (eg joint ventures and promotions)
- It raises your profile and helps to build your reputation
- Meeting people face-to-face helps you develop personal connections and build trusting relationships; people are more likely to remember you if they’ve met you
- Other business owners can give you support and encouragement, which is particularly valuable for smaller businesses
How to network successfully: some top tips
Networking doesn’t come easily to everyone. Many people find the idea of launching themselves into a room full of strangers a daunting prospect, while even the most seasoned networkers might not be approaching it in the best way. But there are lots of strategies to help improve your skills, and with a bit of practice anyone can become an adept networker. Here are some tips for successful networking:
- Be prepared – make the most of networking opportunities by thinking beforehand about what you want to get out of them, who you might want to talk to etc. And don’t forget your business cards.
- Be confident – it’s easier said than done, but hold onto the fact that the more networking you do, the better you’ll get at it.
- Be professional – even at less formal events, always remember that you’re representing your business.
- Be yourself – don’t pretend to be someone you’re not; the connections you make should be based on a genuine match of personality, experience, interest etc.
- Be courteous – remember people’s names (there are various techniques you can learn if you find this difficult), introduce people to each other, be friendly to everyone. Listen as well as talk.
- Be selective – make sure that you’re asking the right people for advice, and also that any potential opportunities are in line with your own business objectives.
- Be generous – always keep in mind that the point of networking is to share information, so offer tips and ideas, give feedback, pass on contact details and so on.