Work that room!

Shooting Star opened a second office in Bristol at the start of this year. Being the new kids in town has meant that getting our name out in the local business community has been a key priority. We have attended a minimum of two networking events a week since opening the new office.

Three months in, I ask myself whether all those early mornings for networking breakfasts and all those after work drinks were truly worth it. This is my take on it.

Judging by my ever diminishing stash of personal business cards and the ever growing pile of third party business cards, I estimate we have spoken to close to 250 people in this first trimester alone. That’s quite an accomplishment and I don’t think I’d have managed this in any other way than networking my socks off.

In this day and age, new business, especially if you are a service provider, will most likely come through referral. It’s highly unlikely potential clients will open the phonebook looking for a supplier. Come to think of it, do phonebooks even still exist? Cold calling tends to be frowned upon and email shots often end up in the spam folder. The best way to get your name out there is to actually step away from your desk and meet people in person. Once they associate a face with a name, they are much more likely to remember you.

If you are a service provider like us, a great way to showcase your work is to talk the talk. If in a conversation with someone they can see that you know what you are talking about, they will trust that you are an expert in your field and will remember you in times of need. You are after all your best brand ambassador; no one will be more passionate and knowledgeable about your business than you are.

My motto when networking is: “You never know where your next lead is going to come from.” I don’t see networking as a selling exercise; instead, I think of it as a way to foster relationships with colleagues, partners, suppliers and potential clients. The people you meet along the way are not only a potential source of referrals, they are a valuable source of information about the industry or the local business community, or even the general news agenda. Conversations that may seem inane at the time can be recalled when talking to someone else, making you look knowledgeable. And the more people you know, the more people you can assist by connecting them with each other. Is there a better way to stick in someone’s mind than by helping them out?

So was it all worth it? Most definitely. People are starting to recognise me and referrals have started trickling in. Networking is not just a great way to grow your business, it is the best way to grow your business. So get yourself out there and work that room!