Networking is a relatively new thing for me. When I ran my holistic health business, I worked five days and two evenings a week, so any spare time I had I divided between family, friends, and my writing. Attending any of the networking groups in my local area was an impossibility. Once I closed that business and focused on my books and blog content I discovered a necessity to get out from the home office and speak to another human being.
Working from home, in any capacity, has a host of benefits, from holding a conference call in your pyjamas, to saving hours on a long commute. Many mums are starting small businesses from their kitchen table to enable them to keep childcare costs to a minimum and reap the advantages of being around for their child’s early years.
With this influx of small businesses, the need for friendly and supportive networking groups is more important than ever. Women empower women; it’s a beautiful thing to witness and an even more satisfying thing to do, or indeed, receive.
The groups I attend primarily target women in my local area. There are numerous networking meetings that tailor for specific industries, such as coaching, design, and sales and marketing, however, for me, I needed to find a group that contained my target audience. As an author of self-help and personal development books aimed at women aged 30+ these smaller groups met with my personal, professional, and marketing needs.
As I also write this motivational blog, it was essential that I mix with the women I hope to help. As I evolve my blog into a lifestyle/goal setting/organisational platform to help my audience be the best they can be, motivate themselves, and achieve great success, I needed first of all to find these ladies, and then discover how I could assist them with appropriate content and products.
Connecting online is vital in today’s society as we are all so busy. Being able to stay in touch with the click of a mouse saves valuable time and also keeps us grounded in real life. I’m a member of quite a few Facebook groups with a variety of themes, from book reviewers, bloggers, and authors, to wellbeing and health pages. I’ve also made some firm friends via these groups and even met up in person with several of the members. However, the online world can be a lonely one, and the positive benefits of face-to-face interaction are well documented. Maintaining a mix of local networking groups held in a favourite café, with social media groups can provide the small business owner with sufficient support.
Embracing everything your networking group has to offer is fundamental to your growth as a business. Not only are you making valuable contacts, but you are also creating lasting bonds with women who understand your anxieties, nerves, and your achievements.
Empowering your fellow small business owner will not only help advance them, but it will have a knock-on effect for your wellbeing; mentally, professionally, and spiritually.
Explore all avenues in your area that offer networking opportunities and use my top 5 tips as a guide for choosing the right group for you.
- Most groups will have a Facebook page or a website. Take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the setup and look at the number of members who attend the meetings. If the group only attracts one or two people to their meetups every month, then it might be worth looking elsewhere. You want a networking session with the potential to interact with plenty of people.
- Prepare any flyers/business cards/products for your business and take these with you. At all good group sessions, you will have the opportunity to introduce yourself, talk briefly about your business, and give out your literature to any interested parties.
- Be supportive of one another. You may attend a networking group where the majority of members deliver the same, or similar, products. You might discover that the lady sitting next to you manufactures similar merchandise to you. Don’t think of this person as a competitor – you will have separate customers, and probably deliver to different areas. However, the opportunity to collaborate can provide huge benefits for you both.
- Engage with each other once the meeting has ended. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours on a rainy Monday morning, but chatting about business over a latte doesn’t end there. Exchange details, like each other’s Facebook pages, connect on Twitter or Instagram. Keep the lines of communication open and continue to interact in the future. Some of my best friends were made at networking events. By engaging on their pages, supporting their business, and promoting their services to your audience, you might be able to help boost their profile and sales, and in turn, they will reciprocate.
- Occasionally, you’ll find a networking group who offer a bit more. They may have a member’s club or a closed group on Facebook where they share additional content. Look into this opportunity and join in when or where appropriate. There is normally an annual fee, but this tends to be anywhere between £50/£100 a year. The group leader will be able to tell you what benefits you get for your money, so don’t be afraid to ask. The extra benefits might be just what your small business needs to advance and grow.
The best advice I can give you is to enjoy yourself. Meeting other small business owners is a delight as you have so much in common. It doesn’t matter what you sell, the marketing plans, sales techniques, and promotional aspects of your business are the same. Exchanging ideas, brainstorming, and obtaining advice are what networking groups are all about, so embrace it.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any other tips that would benefit a small business owner looking to network.
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