Networking can be an incredibly valuable tool for both sales and marketing, particularly for small to medium businesses.
Enabling you to connect with like-minded individuals in your vicinity, maximise exposure and access a pool of local knowledge, suppliers and even talent, the benefits of networking are immediately apparent.
Both a lack of confidence and a lack of knowledge could be the reasons many are reluctant to engage with networking activities. Why bother?
Firstly, let’s think about the benefits of working with local businesses.
Working with an expert who is aware of the local area can help you to identify local customers and markets, which is vital for any start up or SME. Investing a portion of your time in local networking activities, and encouraging your wider team to do the same.
This will bolster your business strategy as you start to familiarise yourself with local markets, obtain greater local support access local opportunities and information. It’s incredibly important to focus on promoting your business locally as it gives you an improved standing in the community. This can be achieved through networking. We’ll explain how in this post and suggest some local (Bedfordshire-based) networking events that we think could be a good starting point.
Identify local businesses
Why? One of the biggest benefits of working with a local business is the ability to build stronger and more personal relationships. A great professional partnership is a prerequisite to more successful business results, regardless of your objectives.
Identify local opportunities
Attending local networking events will place you face-to-face with local professionals, many of whom could have additional knowledge of opportunities within your locality including local funding, local customers, or local talent, for example. Local opportunities – whether you live in the big city, or a smaller suburban area – are there. Laying the foundations for your local network is one way to start identifying them.
Increase your confidence
Yes, confidence plays a major factor in the likelihood of you attending said events, but as with anything, practice makes perfect. Once you make networking a non-negotiable part of your strategy and begin attending events regularly, you’ll increase your confidence and find it easier to start facilitating connections with other businesses. Plus, you’ll start to notice familiar faces, making the entire process more enjoyable and far less daunting. And remember, networking events don’t always take place in large conference halls where everyone is dressed in suits. Today, there’s something for everyone, with a range of informal, light-hearted events to choose from. We’ll suggest some towards the end of this article.
Besides extracting knowledge from other experts and professionals, you might identify opportunities to help other professionals. If you are a marketing professional yourself, many other business owners could call on you for help and advice. If you can offer your services altruistically, it will (ironically) swing back in your favour. Just think about how you can help others as much as how others can help you. It’s not always about what you can take, but what you can give.
Build longstanding professional relationships
And of course, networking enables you to identify and make connections with other parties – many of which could facilitate new connections in other sectors – sectors which might not otherwise be as easily accessible to you.
This also comes from working with local businesses – as suppliers or partners. It helps to build your profile within the community and get to know helpful and trusted figures within that community. Building longstanding, trusted relationships with other professionals will be integral in helping you sustain your business.
This can help to bolster your local business profile, as other authoritative and respected members of the business community start talking about your business in a positive light, recommending and praising your services.
During any business trajectory, there inevitably comes a time where you’ll require some expert advice, or a source of local talent or funding. With a wide network of trusted professionals and experts, you’ll have no trouble in finding that.
Best networking events to attend in Bedfordshire
Whether you’re new to networking or you’re a seasoned attendee, here’s a roundup of Bedfordshire networking events we think could be of great value to local businesses.
The Marketing meetup
The Marketing Meetup takes place every second Wednesday of the month at Bedford Heights (also home of Nettonic – come and say hi!) giving opportunity for anyone attending to learn from marketing professionals in the Bedfordshire area, connect with and even contribute by sponsoring or presenting at the events themselves.
Meet the Neighbours
Meet the Neighbours is a networking event run by the Bedford Chamber of Commerce. The event is open to all within surrounding areas including Milton Keynes, Northampton and Luton. The aim is to connect Bedfordshire businesses with business in surrounding areas and expand our pools of knowledge and support.
#FSB Connect Bedford
FSB Connect events take place every second Friday of the month from 7am to 9am and include a full English breakfast. If time isn’t on your side, get your networking done before you’ve even had to set foot in the office.
Connect over Coffee
Connect over Coffee is another Bedford Chamber of Commerce event, often run at a prime location within Bedfordshire (previous venues have included Jordan’s Mill and the Park Inn). The event is informal and casual, so great for beginners. No pressure here, simply enjoy a coffee with like-minded individuals in a local setting.
Ensuring your people, your brand presence and your business’ name become more and more familiar at local networking events is a sure-fire way to propel your business into the local spotlight. If you can be consistent with your efforts, you’ll notice opportunities beginning to present themselves as you attend more frequently, and other networkers become familiar with our name.
Networking helps to build your reputation while nurturing partnerships and professional relationships with others. Business success leans on the support of a local community, and networking can help you to improve that standing and recognition within your locality.
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