I make no secret of the fact that I’m a mum as well as an experienced marketing and social media consultant. As well as a school-age son, in recent months we’ve added a toddler to the mix, which means I have been off the face to face networking circuit for a while. Breakfast events clash with the school run, lunchtime events rarely coincide with planned childcare.
I’ve made the most of Twitter hours and membership of Facebook groups, and made some great personal connections on both channels. Networking virtually is fun and easy and can be done from the comfort of your own sofa. However, I often recommend face to face networking to my clients as part of their full marketing strategy, particularly when their client base is local businesses or individuals.
After research and recommendations from the Hiking Boots and Posh Pants Facebook group (a great community for enterprising women over 40!), I got the chance to go along to Burton WiRE last week. WiRE is a network for women in business, with branches all over the country.
Here are 4 things I learned:
- Networking can be fun, friendly and easy. If you’ve never been to any networking groups, you may be completely daunted by the whole prospect. Equally, if you are only used to the very high-pressure groups where you have to deliver business to the other members, your experience of networking may be challenging. Either way, you should look for a group and a format that suits you. I had a warm welcome, low pressure to buy and chance to hear from two really interesting speakers, which really worked for me.
- Try to give something as well as looking to gain. If you walk into a networking group totally focussed on selling, you won’t get the most from it. I’m a big believer in give and take, and I was pleased to talk to people who may want my service but equally excited to connect with businesses that I could buy from.
- Always be ready to talk about your business to the whole group for a minute, regardless of which networking opportunity you choose. Luckily I had spotted that the WiRE format enables everyone to have a short introduction to their business, so it wasn’t a total surprise, but I still need to perfect my elevator pitch!
- No matter how big your business, provenance and passion shine through. The two speakers were from very different sized businesses, a small artisan bread maker and the director of a major brewery. One had worked in her role for over 20 years, the other was a more recent venture. But both came alive when they talked about their product, the quality and the provenance of the flour, hops and barley. The passion for getting it right and the lengths they go to introduce the end product was evident in both, and the highlight of the evening was tasting the bread and selecting which beer to take home.
If networking isn’t part of your regular business marketing activity, I recommend you give it a go. Ask business friends and contacts for recommendations and go along to a few different groups if you can. And definitely practise your elevator pitch!