The idea behind business networking is that people are much more likely to act on a personal recommendation. Networking can be a fantastic way of marketing your business; however, it can also be a great way to find good suppliers and colleagues in the same line of business with whom you can compare notes.
As an accountant, I am horrified by the thought of going out and “making a sale” but networking can be a gentler way to promote your business positively. Indeed, networking is not about “hard sell” and trying to sell at networking events is not really the done thing.
The results of networking are not always instant. In fact, it can take weeks or months (depending on your product or service) to see the benefits, as referrals often take time to filter through to a person who is interested in your offering.
There are many national and international networking organisations, such as BRE and BNI. The Federation of Small Businesses also runs local networking events. There are also countless independent networking groups including ones for women only, such as the women’s networking company.
Some networking organisations only allow one company per category (eg only one firm of lawyers etc…).
Some have highly structured agendas (such as BRE and BNI) and others are more free form. Speed networking is also on the increase. As the name suggests, such events are structured to allow 2 to 5 minutes for intense networking between two people before each moves on.
The best thing to do is to try a few different events and see what works best for you.