To network or not to network, that is the question. The answer is definitely to network.
When times are good network you should. When times are tough network you must.
Will my business benefit from business networking?
Yes. The benefits of networking are two fold. Firstly it is a really useful tool for meeting potential customers and secondly it is also a way to make contacts who can provide services that you would find useful either in business or personally.
Networking is not just about meeting other members of the group but also the potential of making contact with people that they know and introducing them to people you know. It should definitely be a two way street.
However, networking takes time, you have to build up relationships with the people in your group before they are likely to recommend you to their customers. And you have to network regularly, it is no good turning up to one or two meetings and expecting business to flood in!
There are a lot of networking groups around and you will probably need to visit a few to see which groups suit you and your business best. You will also need to consider the time of day that suits you and the level of commitment you are willing to give. Some groups meet once a month, others once a week so would require a greater commitment.
Some groups are quite formal and others are more relaxed. In many groups you will need to stand up and speak for one minute about your business. This can be quite daunting if you have not done it before but it becomes easier and easier the more you do it. Also everyone has been in the same boat and understands that it is not easy at first. With less formal networking, you just mingle, grab a drink and go and talk to people about yourself and your business and find out about theirs.
In the last couple of years I have been netwoking on behalf of my company 42 Limited and I have found that I have lots of new customers and made some new friends along the way. I have also found that my confidence has increased. I no longer worry about standing up to speak or going up to talk to complete strangers. In the current ecconomic climate it is an invaluable business tool and every business should be networking even if it is just once a month.
There are a number of business networking groups in the Hitchin / Letchworth area. Here are some that you may like to try. Written by Daliah Hopcroft.