Now more than ever the average person in business whether self employed or an employee…is networking.
Ten years ago when I first launched my business network RSViP, there were a handful of large organisations offering various networking solutions, all of which offered the same kind of format- heavily structured, pitch focused and ever so slightly stuffy. This was 100% my inspiration for stepping outside of the box and finding another, more enjoyable solution for networking – why not introduce a more social element to the current networking format, to offer a relaxed and less contrived way to make new connections and build new relationships with other business folk. It was a challenge in the beginning to educate the masses as to what I was trying to achieve, being as it was merely a light bulb moment in my head initially, but eventually the concept has caught on more and more.
To bring the business network from concept to reality took nine months of hard work, which included a certain amount of cold calling -something that isn’t really necessary these days with the option of networking taking its place and what a much more enjoyable way to develop sales leads! However luckily my background in advertising assisted me in this at the time and before I knew it – RSViP was launched – it was 2008.
Over the last ten years, I have dedicated my time to building the network brick by brick, with the aim to offer business professionals from all industries and sizes an enjoyable and non intrusive platform in which to network and by golly it worked! I am proud to say the network has welcomed and connected in the region of 10,000+ people at our events over the past ten years.
The feedback more often than not is that our format and friendliness is why people join us and stay and that is why we are determined to keep doing what we are doing the way we do it.
Over the years, I have seen new networks come and go and more so than ever we see a huge growth in networks popping up across the East Midlands, my inbox is full of invitations to network at lawyers firms, banks, bars and even bakeries – all offering a different style – some catching on and offering the more relaxed vibe I have so long endorsed…
But how do you know which are worth your time?
The short answer- you don’t.
With a lot of things it’s a case of ‘suck it and see’- ‘try before you buy’ and all that, but you can do your research in advance- check reviews, ask others if they have attended and what they thought- even Google..We offer a free taster visit for first time guests- always look for those, but equally for us at the other side of things running the events, if someone isn’t willing to pay a fee to attend an event or join your network and spends all of their time seeking out the freebies, then they are not the clientele you necessarily want within your network- you have to speculate to accumulate and in order to mix in the right circles will cost.
Many networks won’t be for you for whatever reason, it may be the format doesn’t suit you, or that the calibre of businesses there are not your market, or they come across as too amateur and unorganised, so be sure that you heavily consider not filling your diary for the month ahead with a selection of any old events just because you were invited, as it really isn’t a numbers game- be strategic, be clever, be the tortoise not the hare and make the effort to forge healthy business relationships over a period of time. It isn’t about how many business cards you can collect over the working week- networking takes time and investment and after all time is money- in particular for smaller businesses who will notice a half day out of the office away from a productive day working both ‘on’ and ‘in’ their business.
Remember too, you are a representation of your brand and your business services- so wouldn’t you naturally want to be seen at the right places with the right people who also mirror this?
Yes I run a successful business network, but I will always tell people go and try a few and then come to us or vice versa- nine times out ten we see them again…
Fiona Duncan- Steer