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THE NETWORKING MACHINE

Advice and practice for business meetings-up

Keen to get started networking but don’t know where to start? Start here. The Networking Machine aka Carlene Bender (I got called that on Twitter by Colleen Babcock ok) will hold your hand and start you off…

Prices for Club Contactus Advanced members:
• 1:1 advice on how to begin networking: 1 hour £20
• setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts (from scratch): 1 hour £25
• attending networking meeting alongside me: £30 per meeting

Prices for Starter, Basic and visitors:
• 1:1 advice on how to begin networking: 1 hour £40
• setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts (from scratch): 1 hour £50
• attending networking meeting alongside me: £60 per meeting

This bit comes for free to any Contactus client of course:
• Twitter welcome including during #EalingHour, Tuesday 8-9pm
• Facebook likes and follows from my own several accounts
• Face-to-face connections at networking meetings
• Constructive feedback on your one-minute presentation
• You and your business included in photos which I share online (with your approval naturally)

 

So what do I know about networking?

 
In October 2012, I attended my first business networking meeting, bathed in sweating fear beforehand and in tears of relief afterwards. I learned a lot that day, not least that it might have been easier had I known someone there first. But I went again, and was soon impressed by how effective these meetings were at making business happen. I’ve since made it along to all sorts of networking events in Ealing: free networking, pay-as-you-go events, full membership meetings, as a visitor and sub, and joined in lots of online networking too.

At present I am a full member of:
• The Athena Network (a women-only organisation) Ealing branch – since 2012;
• Fabulous Women (mainly attending the Ealing and Chiswick branches) – since 2012;
• the Ealing Chamber of Commerce (which is linked to the London Chamber of Commerce) – since 2013; and
• the Hounslow Chamber of Commerce – since 2015.

I also happily visit the local free and pay-as-you-go groups including:
• Link4Coffee
• Ealing Mums in Business
• Ealing Business Forum
• Business Biscotti
• 4N
• BNI (just once though!)
• The Best of Ealing
• and now: Club Contactus

In terms of online networking, I get involved in the local neighbourhood Facebook groups, and run a closed but active group called ‘Businesses in Ealing – Contactus’, with over 1000 members. Every Tuesday evening I join in #EalingHour, 8-9pm on Twitter, a slot which is often dominated by local businesses. I also contribute regularly to the local LinkedIn groups Ealing Business Network and Growing West Ealing.

On Twitter, my @ContactusEaling account, set up in December 2012, has over 1,500 followers, 90% of them in London (according to Tweepsmap), probably in Ealing. Most of the people I connect with on Twitter and Facebook are local businesses. I regularly share my advertisers’ updates on my Facebook business page ContactusEalingHomebiz, which has a growing reach.

Every Monday since about April 2014 I’ve published the ‘Ealing Business Diary’ on my homepage, and promoted it on Twitter and Facebook. The Ealing Business Diary is a listing of business networking events, letting local business-owners know what events are on that week, where they can meet up and network with others like them.

From my own experience, cold calling doesn’t work. Guerrilla marketing works only for awhile. And “pity-buying” is not sustainable. Relationship-building is what works in business. I think the best way to build those relationships is to network – to forge credibility and trust. Interacting and collaborating with other businesses often creates the best path to a customer’s heart, and makes it more likely that that customer becomes a repeat customer, a fan of your business, and so will spread the good news about your product or service to others.

Networking is not about selling – hardly any selling goes on at these meetings. What happens is a gentle system of “putting in touch”, based on the phenomenon of the “call-to-action”. For example, if one business states a call to action asking to be put in touch with a local graphic designer, several businesses in the room may have used the services of a graphic designer, and would have good reason to recommend her or him.

One of the big differences between networking and simply posting a query in one’s neighbourhood Facebook group, is one of accountability – because the graphic designer is likely to feel grateful for the recommendation, s/he will do a good job as a way of thanking the original recommender. This cycle of doing a good job and being recommended for it then expands and creates even more business. Any stranger can recommend a friend of a friend on Facebook without knowing anything at all about the business.

I would like to pass on the skills and knowledge I’ve picked up while doing my own business networking, to help new business-owners step in and try out what it’s like and see how it can help them access new customers – without too much sweat and tears.

Ready to try it out? Email me.

Yours truly,
Carlene Bender
Editor-publisher
Contactus magazines
info@contactusealing.co.uk