“Networking is just a waste of time.”
This month we want to share with you a blog written by Emma herself about Networking, and why the above statement, ‘Networking is just a waste of time’ couldn’t be further from the truth.
A message from Emma
I get it, it’s time consuming. You end up drinking far too much coffee and eating far too many Full English breakfasts or cakes, speaking to the same people each time (who probably aren’t even right for your services), but the truth is, since I started networking again at the back end of 2022, things have really started to transform for Flamingo.
Let's start at the very beginning...
When I started the business back in 2019, I did a fair bit of networking. I joined some local groups and committed to the sessions each month. For me, it was more about being part of a community. Running a business alone can be quite isolating.
When I look back at some the clients I acquired from these interactions now, they wouldn’t necessarily be the right fit for us in 2023 – but as a new business with time to fill, we were able to support them, and those ‘first clients’ taught us a lot, and moved us to where we are today.
However, I got so wrapped up in the business, servicing our clients and growing the team, I didn’t do any networking for two years. I checked out and to be honest, I didn’t really miss it (apart from the occasional free pen or Tropic Skincare sample people brought along to give away!)
It was only when we got nominated for an award of ‘Outstanding Excellence in 2022’ and my team attended the event that we all realised how important networking really is.
We were outside the circle
A lot of people knew each other, genuine friendships had formed, and they clearly had admiration for each other’s businesses. It was obvious that these companies all supported each other from collaborations to referrals. We were officially ‘out of the loop’ with the local businesses and I realised that maybe we should have carried on keeping our name in the frame.
The truth is, I thought I’d ‘outgrown it’… how wrong I was! But I’m sure a few of you reading this can relate to feeling that way.
What happened next...
Well, we decided to get back out there. The daft thing is, our company name is memorable, and our new branding stands out. So, it didn’t take too many meetings (or too many bacon sandwiches later!) for people to start knowing who we were and recognising me when I walked in the room.
We started attending the Owners Network (by ActionCoach), along with Leamington Buzz in Warwick which then resulting in us sponsoring Coventry Buzz – at which we gained a new client from our very first meeting, which has in turn paid for our sponsorship all year! Win!
I personally prefer the more casual, friendly networking groups. I want hugs when I walk in the door, not to be penalised for not submitting any referrals for Dan the Decorator I met just last week and have never used (I’m sure you’ll know the types of groups I’m referring to). With that being said, you’ll find your own style and place yourself in the settings that suit you.
But it isn't about acquiring new clients!
If you think networking is about selling to everyone in the room and getting round people as quickly as you can, thrusting your brochures and business cards at them – you should do yourself a favour, jump in your car and go back to work, because that’s a quick way to turn people off. Sorry for the bluntness, but as someone who works in Marketing and Sales, it’s the worst thing you could possibly do.
Networking is about brand visibility
When you go to a networking meeting, you need to ensure your 7-second, 30-second or 60-second pitch is spot on. Don’t waffle. Don’t start it with ‘Let me tell you a quick story’ – because no story that gets to the point quickly can be told in less than 60 seconds. Also, if you’re not even clear on what you actually do, how can you expect someone hearing it for the first time to understand what you do.
Tell people what you do and how you can help them. Share with them the types of companies you’d be interested in talking to that you see the most success with. Because, even if they aren’t in the room… the people in the room might know who they are. Oh and if you can, talk about partnerships and collaborations then you’re onto something great.
Remember it’s called networking… and these people who keep popping up all over the place, are serial networkers! They know a lot of people, so take time to get to know what they do so you can form a relationship with them. You never know where they might come in handy to you someday.
"What do you do?"
… is absolutely what you ask. Don’t start rambling on about what you do unless you’re asked.
When you’re at these events, you need to remember that your audience probably isn’t in the room. So be the person who seeks to learn and understand what others do, be the person who offers value and wisdom and just be the person who draws someone in – rather than drags them in!
Something really amazing happened to me!
We had decided to increase our marketing efforts prior to networking again. If I’m honest, our business does suffer because our clients get all the marketing action. It’s like the saying about the shoemaker’s child having the worse shoes! That was us. So, we decided to do something about it at the back end of 2022. We introduced ‘Flamingo Days’, where we would essentially close the business for one day a month to focus on our own content and branding.
Then when I started networking again in January. A few people said ‘Ah yes, I’ve heard of Flamingo Marketing Strategies’ – which was a great feeling, but it gets better.
I went to one at the end of February, a brand new one. I got chatting to a lady there, and the woman next to her told me that she knows me from social media, she follows my company and has watched quite a lot of my videos online and absolutely loves my company and our rebrand.
Well, I felt like a celebrity! *hair toss*
AND she was in our target market too, so naturally we booked a call in. It was a moment of accomplishment. The time and effort on our own business had been worth it.
So even though this blog is all about networking, I’m going to leave with a really key message that is bigger than networking.
Take time to work on your business
That may of course be in the form of networking, but I’m talking bigger than that.
I did regret my 2-year sabbatical from networking in some ways. But in that time, we moved to an office, doubled our turnover and grew from a team of two to a team of six. We also launched our brand-new website and are in the thick of recreating our brochures and other marketing assets.
Choose your battles, focus on what needs to be done… so when you do get out there and start networking, you’re as proud of your business as I was of mine.
If you have any other suggestions of local networking groups, please do email me directly at email@example.com as I’d love to know about them – and I’ll hopefully see you there!