Back in early 2009, after a few chats online with Laura Morris, we met up at our local toddler group and formulated a plan for a networking groups for mums in business. The whole idea literally was for mums to be able to meet with and without their children, with other like minded mums running a business from home. We posted a message on Netmums telling other mums in business all about our first meeting. 8 mummies turned up for that first meeting in February 2009 and neither Laura nor I were prepared for the whirlwind which became Networking Mummies. Before long we had a basic website set up and plenty of coffee mornings and evening speaker events.
Running a networking group is actually lots of fun (albeit hard bloody work 😉 ). You get to meet an enormous amount of people from a vast array of businesses. You also get an insight into how people interact with each other and what networking techniques work and ultimately what doesn’t.
The first thing you have to get into your mind straight away is that the key to networking lies within developing relationships. I have seen so many people attend events and try to aggressively sell to other attendees or are concentrating so hard on thrusting THEIR business cards into as many hands as they possibly can, that they pay little or no attention to the people around them. There is nothing worse than turning up to an event and having someone talk at you about their business for the umpteenth time because they didn’t take the chance to chat properly to you and haven’t even realised you have met them before.
Word of Mouth I want people to recommend me to their friends. So many of my customers come through people I have meet networking some who have may not even have used my services or bought party supplies. But they like me – people will always buy from people. How many times have you seen them part with wads of cash on Dragon’s Den because they like someone.
Top tips for networking success:
- Make yourself approachable – be confident & chatty.
- Keep eye contact and make responses to people so they know you are engaged and interested.
- Ask open ended questions – this stops the person your talking with just replying yes or no and can help encourage converstaion to flow.
- DON’T hard sell – unless the group has a 5 minute pitch/introduction session leave the sales patter at home.
- Wear a badge – not all events will provide them, it can make it easier for someone to approach you outright.
- Don’t be a stranger – social media, fanpages & twitter enable you to continue conversations, re-introduce your business and develop relationships.
- Enjoy yourself!
Have you a networking tip to share?