How many local business networking events have you been along to?
What can your business get from regularly attending networking events? It’s hard to know where to start. Right across the UK we have BNI ‘chapters’, 4N events, and all sorts of other local and regional events depending on where you live.
They all have different formats and rules. Some have strict rules about the number of referrals you need to be giving to other members. Some only allow one business owner from one industry to attend. Sometimes that might mean the local event has a graphic designer who builds the odd website if the opportunity comes along. Depending on the group and their rules, this could block any web designers from joining.
Some groups meet for breakfast before the working day, others meet for lunch, and some meet in the evenings. Networking events are a good way to introduce yourself to the local business community and for you to meet and get to know other local business owners.
“Networking helped build our agencies and is an essential element of our ongoing marketing strategy. If you are a new or established business, you should consider your own strategy for generating leads through networking” – Lee Jackson, Agency Trailblazer
Don’t expect to turn and pitch your services straight away. Don’t go around the room trying to sell to each person, or talk about yourself too much. You’re not likely to turn up and make a sale, and you’re probably going to have to go along for quite some time before it does pay off. But, by showing up, sharing your knowledge, helping others in your group, and referring clients to them when you can, you’ll be the one they’ll eventually refer work to when the time comes.
If you’re still wondering if going along to local networking events is worth it, let’s go over some of the benefits of finding a group that works for you.
After running my business on the side for over five years and taking work as it came in, I realised when I finally quit my job to go full time that I’d never been to a networking event. If I wanted to make a real impact locally and get more than enough work to keep me going then that would have to change.
So, let’s take a look at some of the major benefits of attending a networking event.
Meet Potential Clients
Local networking events are a great place to meet new clients.
When I went full time I asked about networking in a peer group and had some great advice and responses. One person told me: “You never know who you might meet. When I attended a local networking event a few years ago, an older business owner who I trusted introduced me to a company that had just moved to the area and was looking for tech support services. That introduction led to a five-figure contract.”
“Networking is not about hunting. It is about farming. It’s about cultivating relationships. Don’t engage in premature solicitation. You’ll be a better networker if you remember that.” – Dr. Ivan Misner
Not only can you meet potential clients, but you’re also at a wonderful place to be referred to. An entrepreneur at your local event may not need your services but he may know someone else who does and can put you in contact with each other.
Keep up with Industry Trends
The business world moves fast and your business is constantly expanding and evolving, no matter what industry you’re in. Keeping up with all of the new trends happening by yourself can be a bit overwhelming. But by spending time with others in business, you’ll learn about new trends without even realising it.
Understanding trends can be very valuable for your business. For example, you might learn about a new marketing trend that affects how you offer branding packages to your clients.
Connect with Influencers
Influencers aren’t necessarily potential clients. But they’re typically the people who can get the word out about your business and how you can help. They’re always on the lookout for new products and services they can share with their circles, which makes them ideal to talk to at events.
Obviously you don’t want to spend all of your time talking to these people in the hope that they’ll promote you. Instead, focus on developing a genuine relationship with influencers based around a common interest or passion.
Learn New Things
“If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.”
If you go along to an event and quickly realise that everyone else is years behind in terms of business knowledge or they’re all just starting out then you’re probably not going to learn a lot. You’ll probably meet some cool people and have fun, and maybe you’ll be the one teaching them things. But that’s probably not the best use of your time and it probably won’t lead to decent paying clients.
You don’t need to find local networking events that the millionaire and billionaire owners of massive local companies attend, but it’s a good idea to make sure each event has a good mix of experience and knowledge. This gives you a chance to learn from other entrepreneurs who are further along on their journey than you are.
Develop Your Message
Another bonus of regularly attending local networking events is that you’re going to have to introduce yourself a lot. You’ll be telling others who you are, what you do, and who you want to work with.
When you repeat who you are and who you help week after week, you get good at it. You might hate the idea of speaking to people you don’t know or standing in front of a group and talking, but you will get better. You’ll become more comfortable sharing your message and telling people what makes you stand out from others.
Become the Expert
By going along and sharing your knowledge, you’ll start to be seen as the expert. After a while you’ll become the go-to person for problems or questions about your industry, and this will help you to get more clients in the long run.
You develop a reputation when you attend events regularly, and people start to associate what you do with your name so when they think “content marketing” or “accounting”, they think of you. This then leads to more referrals which leads to more paying work for you.
Join Forces on a Project
As well as finding potential clients and influencers at local networking events, you’ll meet business owners you may choose to partner with on a project.
You may meet a local entrepreneur in a different field with a similar target audience to yours. Together, you could team up to create a series of YouTube videos aimed at your target market or you could decide to write a book together, or launch a product.
Find Local Contractors
If your goal is to eventually outsource some (or even all) of your work, then local networking events can be a great way to meet others. You never know who you might meet locally – the person you’ll one day hire as your virtual assistant, your project manager, that amazing graphic designer, or the business coach who will help push you to take your business to the next level.
And what if you already have an amazing team in place and you’re not looking for someone new? Local networking events can still be a wonderful way to meet entrepreneurs who help you see the way you work from a different perspective or give you ideas into how your team can work more effectively.
What about the atmosphere at local networking events? Meeting other entrepreneurs who are passionate about their work and committed to their businesses can energise and inspire you.
Sometimes, life as an entrepreneur is lonely and difficult. Friends and family don’t always understand why you don’t have a normal job or why you gave up your career. Some don’t see what you’re working towards. It’s easy to get bogged down and lose your mojo but connecting with other entrepreneurs who are excited about their businesses can remind you of why you started yours and give you a new desire to keep going.
When you’re stuck and you’ve been staring at the same problem for too long, it’s easy to miss the obvious solution even when it’s right in front of you. But going to local networking events can give you a fresh perspective. Hearing from others might spark new ideas or you might connect with someone who knows how to solve your problem or helps you look at it differently.
What about when you’re stuck for social media content and have no idea what to post? What if you know you need to write blog articles but you just can’t think of what to write about. The local content marketer may tell you how they repurpose snippets of content to use as social media posts or how they find questions about their service and answer them as blog articles.
It’s important to remember that local networking events aren’t just a place to get more business. Going to events is your chance to help others and give back to the group. You may meet a potential client that you end up doing a large piece of business with. But sometimes you could meet someone in need of a quick word of encouragement or a simple suggestion and they’ll be on their way.
When it comes to networking events, it’s smart to turn up with a giving mindset. You’ll attract positive people and others will want to help you. Plus, you’ll feel good and enjoy yourself more when you show up this way instead of turning up and expecting to go home with a handful of new leads.
If you’re worried you don’t have anything valuable to contribute, don’t be. Even if you’re a brand new entrepreneur, you can still listen to others and encourage them to pursue their passion. You bring value just by showing up!
Grow Your Confidence
The more events you attend, the more confident you’ll become. You’ll be more confident about delivering your message and about talking with others about how you can help their business. This confidence will give you the courage to take smart risks in your business.
Ready to give business networking events a try?
You might be reading this thinking local networking events sound scary. But they don’t have to be. Nobody knows everyone else when they first attend. And nobody knows everything. If you start attending networking events regularly, you’ll find they can be a fun and exciting way to connect with other entrepreneurs.
My friend Lee Jackson, host of the Agency Trailblazer podcast, recently recorded an episode dedicated to helping you to develop a clear long term strategy for networking success as part of your overall marketing efforts. Take a listen to the podcast episode at https://agencytrailblazer.com/podcast/generating-leads-from-networking/ or search ‘Agency Trailblazer’ from Apple Podcasts or on Spotify and listen to episode 246.
And if you’re not sure where to find an event try asking for recommendations on a local Facebook. Searching Eventbrite for local business networking events is a good way to see what events are in your area. You can also find BNI and 4N groups all over the UK.