I am a keen networker, and have been for three years. It serves more than one purpose for me. Apart from the obvious advantage of finding new business leads, I have met and got to know other excellent local business people, I have made good friends, and it gets me out of the office and gives me the social element that running your own business often lacks. In fact, most of our new customers over the last three years can be traced directly back to someone I originally got to know through a networking meeting.
Once you have met someone through networking, the best way to get to know them better is to have a follow-up meeting or a one-to-one, where you find out about each other’s business. I tend to meet people in a local coffee shop or for lunch. It is quite often a revelation how much you have in common, or how business ideas or possible partnerships can come from these meetings, even when you thought your business was nothing to do with the business of the person you are meeting. I also find it useful to meet people who are in the same business as myself, as we can often refer business to each other, or have extra niches of expertise that can prove very useful.
I find I am regularly asked at these one-to-one meetings which other networking meetings I go to – and what I get out of them – this gave me the idea for a couple of blog posts about the local networking meetings I do attend – to save me copying and pasting the information into countless emails!
Networking in Northampton
Synergy Networking Group – Meet at Yeoman of England, Wootton Village, Northampton 9.30am to 11.30 – usually on a Monday once a month – contact Mandy (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details of the next meeting. This is a low-cost meeting (£6 including drinks) which varies in size for 3-4 people up to 15 in the most popular months. It is an excellent first networking meeting for nervous new networkers. We sit around a table in the pub and chat and catch up – and even when the meetings are small they are excellent for getting to know other local business people.
WIBN Northampton – Women only networking – Meet at The Old White Hart, Far Cotton on the 3rd Thursday of the month – this is a ‘lock out’ group, so you can only attend if your type of business is not already represented – take a look at the website for members and contact details to book.
WIBN Northampton was my first ‘serious’ networking group – and by that I mean the first one I joined for which you need to pay an annual membership fee, although visitors are welcome. It is more formal in format and members get to present a 1-minute talk about their business to the room, pass business cards and flyers round, and also give testimonials about work done by other members. It is a great place to take a prospective client, as if you are established in the group other members will most likely say great things about you! You need to commit to attending every month if you join, but it is well worth it, as the connections you make can go far.
Northampton Business Breakfast (FSB) – Meet at Westone Manor Hotel, Weston Favell on the 2nd Friday of the Month from 7.15am to 9am. Visitors are welcome and pay a little more than members. email email@example.com who is the branch secretary.
There are many breakfast networking meetings in the area, but as a busy Mum with school runs to do I cannot often free my time to go. I visited this group first, though, and really enjoyed the format, the people and the food – so I have now joined the FSB and make the effort to go every month. While breakfast is being served you have the opportunity to present your business in 1 minute to everyone on your table – so selecting where you sit is important if you want to make new connections. Business cards and flyers can be displayed and handed out round your table too. There is a talk each month which usually proves interesting and informative. If you wish to visit as a guest, please let me know, as we both get a discount compared to if you just book for yourself!
I hope my small insight into these three different meetings proves useful. I will follow up this post with a similar Networking in Milton Keynes post soon, as we live directly between the two towns, so I am ideally placed to network in both places.