Over the past six months I have become what I would call a serial networker. In any given month I may go to a few networking breakfasts, a number of evening events, a business show or two and even training sessions where possible.

I never realised quite how many networking groups there were in Bristol until I really got into it and now I actually feel very lucky!  There are so many ways you can meet up with other small businesses in Bristol!  From Open Coffee to Lloyds breakfast to Bristol and Bath Marketing Network, there is something on offer for everyone if you know where to look.

LinkedIn is a great way to connect with groups and find out about meet ups.  I also ask people when I am out and about networking what else they go to and often find out about new places that way!

Why Network?

Quite simply if people do not know who you are and what you can do they are never going to call you! Yes you can advertise but that does not give you the chance to find out about your customers, build long term relationships and have a good chat over breakfast or a drink!

The idea is that you see these people often enough that your build a relationship and you therefore are not just selling your business to the people you meet but to all their clients too.  For the majority of us, there are a number of people doing something very similar to us – relationships are key in this competitive world.

I also enjoy it! Granted I do not always get in the car for a 6.45am breakfast with a smile on my face but I soon get into it after my morning tea! Sometimes it is easy to become quite isolated as a small business and very inwards looking. It is always good to get another opinion, find out what other people are up to, what is new, otherwise you could find you have been somewhat left behind.

16 Top Tips

  1. Get people to talk about themselves first so you know how to frame what you say about your business to suit them
  2. Do not just tell people what you do, there are hundreds of people doing exactly the same thing, tell people why they should use you. And think about this in an innovative way. Do not use phrases like “the best/quickest/fastest/most efficient/most creative in Bristol” you might as well say nothing… on the other hand, if you say something like “we have enabled our customers to increase awareness by 45% and improve customer satisfaction ratings by 55%”….thats worth listening to
  3. Do not be scared to take examples of your work if it helps to explain it
  4. If you are “speed networking” take a bottle of water….trust me on this one!
  5. Do not give up because you did not win business the first time you went. Networking is about building long term trusting relationships locally, it is not a quick fix
  6. Always have business cards and lots of them – you would be amazed how many people turn up without them!
  7. Be memorable for the right reasons
  8. Listen to others and show you are listening. People respect that. If you play with your phone throughout their 2 minutes they will be less inclined to listen to you
  9. Follow up with personalized emails where appropriate but do not spam!
  10. Tell people what you want. You are not just selling to the people in the room, but to all the people they know as well. Be specific and it might ring some bells…. I would like to speak to small, local charities. I would like to speak to personal trainers…
  11. In the same light as the above, do not simpleweb.co.ukitch off because you cannot sell to the person you are talking to for whatever reason, they will have a network of contacts and clients who may be useful
  12. Do not be scared if you happen to end up sitting next to a competitor. Talk about your differences, maybe there is business relationship to be developed through skills sharing? Use this as an opportunity to highlight to people why you are different
  13. Use case studies and real customers. Give context to your work. It makes it much more memorable
  14. Try not to read off a sheet, have confidence in your business, no one knows it better than you
  15. Do not just stick with the people you know. Obviously you want to build relationships so spend a bit of time seeing how they are and reminding them of your existence but then move on. Do not sit on a table where you know everyone, they have heard your 2 mins already, go where you know no one, you have more to gain
  16. The most important thing to remember if you are nervous about speaking is that everyone sat around the table wants you to do well, and they are just pleased that you are talking at that exact moment instead of them

If you’d like to discuss your startup or project, get in touch with Simpleweb today.

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