Joining a business network is marketing in its purest form – telling people face to face, in your own words, what you do.

In every town and city, you will find a vast amount of networking groups. Some are structured, whereas others are slightly more relaxed allowing you to build quality relationships at your own pace.

There is a first time for everything. If you have never been to a networking group before, then the prospect can be daunting.

Networking basically means you are in a room full of people wanting to get to know your business – and they are all there for the same reason as you. Not only that, the room is likely to be filled with decision makers, so make the most of it!

Never be afraid to approach people and tell them all about you and your business, but always make an effort to listen and ask them questions too.

Do not expect to just sell your services or products to the people in the room. It’s about building contacts who have contacts.

Remember, networking is a two-way street and you will find the more referrals you pass, the more you start to gain as people see you as a valuable member of the group.

Step One: Find the right networking group for you.

Research the groups in your area and find out more information.

  • What is the structure or format of each meeting?
  • What types of businesses attend that group?

Make sure the group does not have any members you are likely to clash with. Most groups will not allow you to join if there is another similar business already a member. Direct competition makes networking so much harder.

It is always best to then contact the organisers and ask to go along as a visitor to try the group – and find out if they have special rates for a one-off visit.

Keep an eye out for networking recruitment drives and new member discounts. Many groups will see a handful of members joining at the same time if they do 12 month memberships. This means it is likely that a few will drop out after the first year – leaving a big space for new members.

Step two: Perfect your ‘elevator pitch’

The premise of an elevator pitch is to sell your business in a snappy and concise way. Imagine meeting a hot prospect in a lift who asks “what do you do?” giving you only a few seconds until you reach the top to explain to them.

Prepare and write down your elevator pitch – then memorise it.

  • Who am I?
  • Why do I do what I do? (The emotional hook!)
  • How do I do it?
  • Example case
  • Call to action.

Like anyone in business, I can be asked what I do multiple times a day. There is so much we do and so much I want to say in an elevator pitch, which is why it has to be honed and refined to hook people in. Here’s mine:

“I am Sophie Metcalfe, the Creative Director of The Soapy Group. We’re a marketing, web and brand design company.

We drive more customers to SMEs through creative thinking, planning and amazing design to make businesses look fabulous!

We don’t just build a website for a client – we plan and manage how to make that website work for a client through all avenues of marketing.

We recently designed and developed a web-shop for client X which earned an ROI within the first month thanks to strategic marketing. We’re now managing and implementing that client’s entire marketing budget.

Let’s have a one-to-one and we can discuss your marketing and how we can make it work better for you.”

Step three: Arrange One-to-one meetings outside of the networking group.

Make an effort to get to know as many people in the group as you can. The best way to do this is by arranging one-to-one meetings outside of the group – an informal coffee and chat goes a very long way.

Make sure the conversation is equally split between you talking about your business and them talking about theirs. There is nothing worse than devoting a one-to-one meeting to yourself – it’s a waste of both your time.

Ask questions, keep to the point and listen.

Don’t treat a one-to-one meeting as a sales pitch. You are not likely to get business from them directly. The idea is to get to know each other so that you are equipped to eventually swap quality referrals.

The more people get to know you and understand your business, the more you are likely to be in their minds when they meet someone who needs your services.