Helping Your Micro-business Select a Suitable Networking Group
You may have heard about breakfast clubs and other business networking organisations and wondered if they would be a suitable way of marketing your micro-business. They’re not for everyone, but if you are thinking about getting involved, here is a handy guide to the main types. The benefits of networking generally were explored in Would Networking Work for Your Micro-business?
These are usually split into local groups or ‘chapters’ with around 20-30 businesses in each. Meetings are normally held every week or fortnightly with the most common time being at breakfast, although some groups will meet at lunchtime or after normal office hours. Each group will have only one representative from a business sector, so there can only ever be one graphic designer or printer (for example) in a group at any one time. Each member will stand up for a minute or so to deliver a short ‘pitch’ on their business covering what they do, why it’s so good and, most importantly, their ideal customer.
The purpose is to generate introductions to contacts outside the group from other members. The theory is that if every member knew 30 other businesses then your message could be transmitted to 900 companies, some of whom would be your ideal customers and you could be personally introduced or ‘referred’ to them. Although referrals and introductions are a very powerful form of micro-business marketing, don’t expect immediate results. Members need to develop trust in each other before they will feel comfortable passing on the names of potential suppliers to their business associates.
At around £800-£1,000 per year (including joining fee, regular membership and cost of breakfasts), they can be a very cost-effective way of marketing your business. Some groups may have a particular focus, such as women in business or mothers – ‘mumtrepeneurs’.
These work on the same principle as speed dating and are an excellent way to promote your company to a large group of potential customers in a short period. Each visitor will be expected to deliver a short presentation of around 1-2 minutes to a single individual before receiving a presentation from them, after which everyone moves onto someone else in the group. There may be 20-80 businesses in one session, so you’ll deliver your pitch up to 20-80 times but also get 20-80 different sales pitches in return.
Many local business organisations, such as Chambers of Commerce, run regular networking meetings at breakfast, lunchtime or in the evening. These are gatherings of business-people (perhaps around 50-200 attendees) offering general networking opportunities without the pressure of sales pitches in given slots. They often have an accompanying presentation or seminar associated with it, which increases general interest and provides knowledge.
Speed networking and Chamber of Commerce events are likely to cost around £20 per meeting but there is often an additional joining fee of £100-£200.
This is like Facebook for businesses. The most well-known example is LinkedIn although individual business groups (such as a Chamber of Commerce) or networking groups may also provide one. The purpose is to generate a community, so be careful of trying to overtly generate sales by, for example, contacting people who look interesting or you might find yourself quickly removed. Treat them as a general reference source or a community of like-minded people.
The variety of different groups means that there is something for everyone. Although they may all sound great in principle, if you don’t fancy the idea of standing up in front of 30 people at 7.30 am every week then the individual face-to-face events may be best, especially those which meet at lunchtimes or in the evening. Similarly, females who are new to business may initially feel more comfortable in an all-women environment.