Networking as a Form of Micro-business Marketing
Have you considered using Business Breakfast Clubs or other networking groups and wondered if they would help your micro-business? Many successful enterprises have been built on the back of networking, but they do not suit everyone. This article explores whether they could work for you.
If your micro-business provides a product or service which is easy to explain, in demand and suited to volume sales, then networking could be hugely valuable for your micro-business. Joining a business breakfast group may cost around £800-£1,200 in total over a year (including joining fee, regular membership and cost of breakfasts), but it can be a very cost-effective way of marketing your micro-business.
Many types of micro-business can really benefit from it, such as graphic designers, printers, web designers, IT maintenance, insurance brokers, florists, car valeting companies, etc.
Another is service providers, e.g. financial advisers, accountants, solicitors and business consultants. Services such as these are often purchased on the basis of relationships or likeability of the individual, so networking meetings offer a great opportunity to start the sales process and build a professional relationship.
Networking clubs can be better for businesses selling to other businesses rather than individual consumers, but business-to-consumer micro-businesses can still benefit from them. For example, a local farmer selling home grown produce may do very well, both from the exposure to businesses with lots of employees plus the number of individuals who would go along to meetings, particularly those with larger attendances.
Most micro-businesses can gain some benefit though, providing they pick the right networking organisations. For example, businesses with products that are complicated to explain or require a large investment can look for dedicated networking groups that attract the type of customers they are looking for, either geographically or by business sector.
If you’re thinking of trying networking groups, there are several aspects to consider.
First of all, pick the clubs or meetings carefully. The groups can be categorised into four main types:
- Breakfast clubs
- General networking (via Chambers of Commerce, for example)
- Speed networking
- Online networks.
A fuller description of each is given in Different Types of Networking Groups.
Choosing a Networking Group
If you don’t feel confident about regular attendance or standing up in a room at 7.00am to promote your products and service to people you’ve never met, then breakfast clubs might not work for you. If face-to-face personal discussions are more your thing, speed networking or your local Chamber of Commerce could be a great source.
Success at all networking groups needs you to develop an ‘elevator pitch’. This means being able to explain your micro-business and the key benefits of its products and/or services in less than one minute. Rehearse it thoroughly so you can repeat it without notes when speaking to any new contacts but still make it appear natural, rather than sounding too much like a prepared script. The aim of networking is to meet new contacts and you want to meet as many as you can. Having a good pitch will help to build relationships and make a strong impression.
Be prepared to wait for results – it is quite possible that you might not get any immediate sales. Networking is not a quick-fix approach as it can take time to build relationships and in some cases (business breakfast clubs, for example), it is expected that you will take time to get to know the other members.
Picking the right networking activities and applying a few basic principles can lead to huge benefits for businesses, but not everyone benefits equally. Hopefully it can work for you.