Anyone who has a small business needs to think locally in order to expand both their brand and their contacts, which is why networking is such an important part of the marketing mix.
Although it may seem slightly contrived to actively go out and seek people who can help grow your business you can rest assured that there are numerous others doing the same thing. It’s a bit like online dating in as much as you’re being proactive about looking for a professional relationship rather than waiting for ‘the one’ to walk down the frozen veg aisle in Sainsbury’s.
Local networking is alive and well all over the UK, and from trade fairs and industry conferences to pre-arranged get-togethers upstairs at the local pub, if you’re in business it pays to know where there might be a feast of opportunities just down the road from where you live and work.
A prime example of local networking can be found in Leamington Spa in Warwickshire which regularly finds business-to-business breakfast and lunchtime meetings taking place without the bat of an eyelid. As you’d expect from one of the UK’s top locations for creative types, organised networking events in ‘Silicon Spa’ provide a great chance for like-minded free thinkers to bounce ideas and sound out their plans, as well as helping participants to grab some much needed fresh fruit in the process!
If you’re interested in finding out why local networking is important to your business, check out the ten points below; although you might well bump into that missing piece of your professional jigsaw in the supermarket, the chances are, you’ll be much too busy to notice.
Local networking helps you to create a brand image
Although you might feel that your website and your offline literature do the job when it comes to your brand identity, there’s nothing that beats a face to face encounter to really cement what your business stands for. Through your personality and vision you can help to create an image for your company in the twinkling of an eye, and if you’re someone who likes to get things done, this will no doubt reflect on how your products and services will be perceived by fellow professionals.
Every entrepreneur needs a little social time
Hey, let’s face the facts. It can be slightly lonely being an entrepreneur or freelancer and although we’re all perfectly happy in our creative incubators and professional pods there’s nothing like a bit of human contact to put things into perspective. Being sociable and meeting new people is just as important as proactively pushing your stock and if you can combine business orientated chat with how things are growing down at the allotment, then all the better.
Never miss an opportunity to expand your contact list
Organised networking events are great for checking out the competition and discovering where exactly you fit in within the local playing field. Keeping your contact card handy is an ideal means of passing on your details to anyone that you might enjoy doing business with and if you can record a log of who you met, what they do and how you can get in touch with them then there’s no telling when that little black book of business contacts may well come in handy.
There’s nothing like a spot of local networking to fuel confidence levels
Basically, if you spend most of your working life attached to a computer then sometimes it can weigh a little heavy when it comes time to brave the great outdoors. As with everything: the more you do it, the more you gain in confidence, and if the thought of introducing yourself to random strangers gives you the willies then all the more reason to throw yourself in with gay abandon. There’s nothing that beats that rush of getting your first contact’s details and once you’ve grabbed a muffin and downed an OJ there will be no stopping you on your quest for more.
Gain fresh insight into a range of businesses via local networking
Although it’s always relevant to meet new people who work within the same industry as yourself, it’s also really valuable to branch out and explore different walks of life too. You never know which path your business could take and by meeting a variety of people you’ll be much more open to new ideas as well as advancing yourself on both a professional and personal level. Networking is not just about back slapping and showing off, it’s much more to do with learning and listening.
Local networking allows you to sew some seeds for future harvest
Now, although you might have met someone that you thought was A. of no consequence or B. the best thing since fried eggs, you might not actually hear from that person ever again. However, don’t despair and feel like you need to pepper their inbox with emails that start: ‘Hey, have I done something wrong?’ The most important point is that you’ve sewn the seed and like most seeds the chance for growth often occurs organically with a surprise email or phone call always well worth waiting for.
Building and nurturing relationships starts and continues with local networking
Of course, there are bound to be numerous familiar faces attending local networking events and if you fancy taking things further and singling out one or two personalities for special attention then this is a great way to build upon an already established relationship. Networking doesn’t start and end with an organised event it’s up to you to grow and nurture a business relationship and once you’re ready to talk shop with a like-minded individual then being proactive and inviting them to lunch or for a coffee is an excellent means of keeping things bubbling along nicely.
Keep up with current affairs by local networking
As much as we try to keep up with what’s hot and what’s not within our chosen industry there’s nothing like a juicy bit of insider gossip to help lubricate the wheels of progress. There’s many a casual chat at a juice bar or over a bagel that’s led to far more profitable pastures and if you’re intending to keep up-to-date with all that’s current within your line of business then local networking is certainly going to give you the best opportunity to do so.
Sharing is caring and networking is no exception
Local networking isn’t just a way for you to grow your business it’s also a great way to help others too. This sort of caring community spirit never fails to inspire our inner-hippy and if you can go out of your way to help a new starter or to share your knowledge with someone who’s interested, then you’ll be much more likely to create some good vibrations that might well ripple much more widely than just a local sphere of influence.
There’s always an opportunity around every corner
At the end of the day, local networking is all about making opportunities and if you’re able to keep in touch with the events, news and people who are changing the way that you do business then this is a sure fire way of being able to watch for those all-important open doors. The key to running a successful business is to be able to do something well and let the right people know about it. The opportunities that can come from networking are infinite and if you think that you can rest on your laurels and continue to grow your business on your own, then it’s about time you got outside as you never know what or who’s waiting round the corner.
It’s no surprise that Warwickshire is leading the way when it comes to local networking events as it’s one of the UK’s top creative counties and certainly not looking backwards when it comes to making friends and influencing people. TKStarley are just one of the movers and shakers in the Warwickshire area that are well known for their friendly and professional approach to doing business and if you’re looking for a web design company in the Midlands, don’t hesitate to drop your frozen veg and get in touch.
More about the author: Chris Owen is a freelance copywriter specialising in digital marketing and creative web content.