A year of learning
At the start of the year, I set out with an objective to seriously engage in some business networking. I had a desire to add more local business into our customer portfolio. It’s fair to say a lot of what I’ve done has cemented my thinking a bit.
The catch-phrases associated with membership bsed business networking
- Givers gain - true to a certain amount, however, sometimes you can give and not gain. It’s not a level playing field out there.
- 50% social 50% business. Seriously, we’re all here for one purpose - make new business connections.
These are purely tag lines which identify well with the respective groups, depending on who you are and how you fit into cliques depends on how much you get out of them.
So it's fair to say, there’s a lot of money being made and equally keeping some people with a roof over their head, as the year went on, we’ve engaged with several of the paid networking and the results didn’t speak of anything outstanding. We’ve also discovered, that most of these are attended by “near-professional networkers” they almost prey on the people with substantially more to do than go out for breakfasts, lunches and drinks.
During 2019, we applied more of our marketing advice to ourselves, know your customer profile, as of yet, I cannot say I’ve found a networking group which attracts our profile of our potential customer. We are re-thinking this more, where do we need to be to connect with our customer profile.
The ones with the most interesting results, or the connections which have formed the most authentic bonds, have been free to access networking events. So the ones in Huddersfield which are less likely to get the professional networking people to and real people include:
The Yorkshire Mafia, Huddersfield Huddle, 2nd Monday of the month, during 2019 (and previous) have been in the Head of Steam in St Georges Square (by the Railway Station). Ably co-ordinated by Mark Evans for many years, Mark has built a great reputation as a reliable, trustworthy individual, by being there for others. Pure cost - the price of your pint. Numbers have varied between 10-35, the usual thing of yes people sign up and then don’t attend. So don’t get too excited by the delegate list on the website. However good local genuine people do attend. Note, yes you do get the perpetual networkers, and I would also say they don’t get quite the respect they command at other events. Yes, this event does attract from outside of Huddersfield. This event will see some changes in 2020 has the lead of the event hands over to Keith and Alex.
Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce Networking, Third Wednesday morning in the month, at Cafe Ollo in the Media Centre. Again a casual mingle and talk to people as with the Huddle. Attracts a slightly different audience to the Huddle, so good news. The sponsors of the event can be there in force, so can pad out the numbers a little. Again this event attracts from slightly further afield than Huddersfield itself. Numbers again average between 12-30.
The new one I tried this month, was Huddersfield Professionals Networking. An independent networking group, with its main objectives to further the knowledge and connections of its attendees. This isn’t a purely small business or business network, so has the opportunity to open doors to professionals working in organisations. Jess is highly welcoming and has a genuine interest in getting to know people. Fourth Thursday evening in the month.
One still on the yet to attend this is the Federation of Small Business’s monthly networking, at the GDPA Cafe in Huddersfield. By all accounts, it attracts a very similar cohort of attendees. Yet to be visited and rated.
The substantial learning from this is
- With how we operate, the paid networking events didn’t justify themselves. They either generated the wrong business enquiries as it was for products which didn’t justify the expense of the outlay of attending these events
- People like people like themselves. So as someone who values their time to the last minute. Lunching women who are predominately beauticians, "Avon Ladies" etc isn’t for us. Yes the morning breakfast events, had people who were more like us and responded in a similar tone and body language.
- Some of your best networking is through the circles you already have. Building trust and reputation take time. Equally can be damaged by someone who doesn’t have the same values as you, who you connect with at a networking event, usually, they want something and don’t care, because it’s simply about them. So that tune, for us, the time I’ve spent with people at Stadium Runners and through Scouting has been more productive than the paid business networking this year.
Above all, get out there, share your passion for what you do. People will want to engage when they realise you are the person/business for said product or service. Whilst we haven’t added more local business to our portfolio (disappointingly) we added some brilliant big names through existing connections.