We ran a very successful webinar in April, entitled “Finding Customers by Networking” (which you can watch again here!)
There were a lot of questions coming out of that webinar, so in an attempt to give those who are interested some additional advice – we thought we’d write this article as a companion to the webinar.
So why does business networking help businesses to grow and thrive? The simple answer is “people do business with people they like”.
Put another way, you can have the best IT company in the world, but until your prospective customers know that – you won’t win too much business!
By attending business networking events and meeting people face-to-face, you can build relationships and earn trust.
Whilst you’ve got a web-site that explains what your business does, there is no substitute for meeting people in person and showing off your skills. Your passion for what you do will shine through, and like-minded individuals will be attracted to working with you.
Business networking helps you to build referrals for your business. Remember the last time you met somebody passionate about their business, who you went on to work with and they delivered exceptional service? You probably told anybody who would listen about what a pleasure it was to work with them. Other people will have the same thoughts about working with you.
Passion + Skills = Remarkable = Word of Mouth Referrals
Business is all about relationships, and there’s no better way to build relationships than face to face.
So you’re sold on attending Business Networking events, but where do you find them?
If you’re a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, then the Chamber is always putting on events. Regularly scheduled and featuring a mixture of different types of businesses and personalities, the Chamber is the first place many people turn to for business networking.
Additionally, there are plenty of organizations working to bring business individuals together through networking events.
Business Network International – better known as BNI – have chapters all across the world, and in some Cities, multiple chapters. BNI typically hold breakfast meetings, the idea being you can attend a meeting before the business day begins and not give up any valuable time away from the office.
BNI typically allow only one type of person from any industry in each chapter. So your local group will only allow one Accountant, one PR Consultant, one IT Support company. If there’s already an IT Company in the group you’re interested in, then try to visit the group as a guest and discussing the situation with the incumbent member. You may often find you and he target different verticals, allowing you to co-exist.
BNI require a commitment from you in terms of an up-front membership payment, and a commitment of time. BNI meets weekly, and lives by the motto “Givers Gain”. You are actively expected to bring referrals for your fellow members, the idea being that if everybody is passing referrals, everyone’s business grows. These commitments' are not for everyone, so you’re encouraged to visit a chapter or two to see if BNI is a fit for your business.
There are also plenty of other business networking groups that meet informally, or with no commitment to attend regularly or deliver referrals. In the UK, 4Networking have groups in every major City, but your best bet is to simply use a Search Engine to find groups. Trust us, they aren’t hard to find!
One final thought is to consider attending Peer Group and User Group meetings with your fellow IT Companies. Whilst you typically won’t find customers directly, building up Strategic Alliances with your peers is a great way to learn, seek advice and develop your business. Shying away from working with your competitors is considered quite an “old school” way of looking at business – collaboration and actively working with your peers is a much more progressive (and fun!) way of doing business.
If you’re looking for a peer group to attend, then look for a local Microsoft Small Business Specialist group. They are typically attended by smaller IT companies who are looking to collaborate with their peers and grow their business. If you’re a slightly larger company, then HTG (Heartlands Technology Group) is considered one of the best IT peer groups around.
Click here to read the second part of Finding Customers by Networking.