What is Structured Networking? Does it Really Work?

I like meeting people.  Strange as it may sound, as a woman of slightly above average height (no, I’m not a giant), being shy wouldn’t be a good look for me.  A sort of shrinking violet with hunched shoulders, perhaps, whose idea of hell is walking into a room.  Nah.  And anyway, Mum always told me that being shy was another version of bad manners.

Whilst I’m not entirely sure that my dear-departed Mother was completely right about that last point, as a copywriter, networking is my preferred method of developing my business.

I reckon we could all go to at least one (or maybe two) networking events a day in Brighton, there are that many of them.  Yes, a proportion of Brighton’s business community, the meet-and-greet cognoscenti, are out in force on a regular basis.  And very friendly they are, too.

Networking in Brighton

Most networking here is pretty good. You could go to networking events all the time in this vibrant city of ours, but you’d probably never get any work done.  Toast is great, by the way, and I’m not just saying it because I’m a new member.  A few others – well, not so much.  I’ve been given fake leads before, just because Business Necessitated It, but no names, no pack drill.

There are different types of networking, obviously.  I run Second Friday Hove, and Third Friday Brighton. Both are free, informal and friendly.  There’s no sector lock-out so occasionally we get several digital-type businesses in the same room, which is typical for Brighton.  My advice: Pick the person you like the most.

Structured networking is different.  For one thing, there are costs involved.  Toast is a not-for-profit group so it’s not expensive, but others can be a little steep.  On the whole, however, if you raise your networking budget, you raise your game.

The financial commitment you make should match your engagement with the concept, which involves a promise to attend regularly.

So, what IS structured networking?

Structured networking involves regular events (weekly, monthly etc) and as mentioned, you have to turn up.  There tends to be a sector lock-out which means that you, and you alone are the plumber, accountant, lathe turner etc.  Once you join and remain a member, nobody else can compete against you in the room.

And?

The 60-second pitch.

Tell your group in a minute what you do, how you do it, what makes you different and the types of businesses you would like to meet.  Be precise, concise and focused.  Make it memorable.

This part of structured networking puts the fear of God into many, many people.

Standing up and speaking in front of other people can be terrifying.  It’s what puts reserved folks off networking.  But you must.  See it as your own personal development.  It’s a great skill to learn.   Your Elevator Pitch develops your self-esteem and hones your communication skills.  You know that you can definitely get better at this.

The point is, explaining your business in positive terms and with a time limit will help you to feel more confident in front of potential customers.

Actually, as someone with several presentation skills courses behind me and a background in sales and marketing, I can help you with this, so get in touch if you need to.

Referrals

Some groups oblige their members to pass leads, others encourage the process.  If you admire someone’s skills in your group which could be matched to another’s needs then make a referral.  Generating business within your group is very powerful.

People notice.  Everyone wins.

The person to whom you referred a potential customer is highly likely to recommend you to others.

Meeting Up

The benefits of structured networking are always in the follow up.  Meeting a group member outside the event itself is going to lead to Good Things.

You’ll get to know what makes someone different.  Asking how he or she got to where they are is a great way to know how to refer them to others.  In particular, getting to know someone’s “Why”, the reason they do what they do, is extremely effective.

If you network well (see above) you WILL grow your business. Here’s four main reasons why structured networking can be so successful:

  • Most people need what you offer, or they know someone who needs you. It’s just a case of YOU being on THEIR mind when that particular requirement arises.
  • People buy people. If someone likes you, they will do business with you.
  • Trust builds confidence. If the group hears what a great job you’ve done, they’ll also want some of you.
  • Exchanging new ideas is super-valuable and an excellent source of new perspectives.

Networking is not about selling.  It’s about helping each other towards our business goals through finding opportunities to support one another.

It may involve sausages.  Or grilled tomatoes, which, for some reason nobody ever eats.  Later in the day, wine may be involved.

And, don’t forget your business cards.  Don’t ever forget your business cards.

Susan Beckingham

Sussex Copywriting Services.  January 2019

2019-01-22T10:28:28+00:00