Networking is it right for me?

Networking, the best friend of any business, big/small/medium, we all need to do it… but which one is best for you?

We’ve all hear of BNI, the ‘figurative’ marmite of the business networking world, let’s start by speaking the truth… The rules are a killer, and you can get kicked out, in fact you don’t necessary get an automatic entry if you want to join! This is entirely true, all the stuff you’ve heard is probably true, the traffic lights, the requirements to contribution, missing meetings is a ‘no-no’… so why on earth would you dare come to a meeting?

I have to admit it, it works… I had my reservations, until I attended Steel (Middlesbrough chapter), I meet Tad Web Solutions LTD and immediately we’re working on a large project with a client, that one overs all the membership fees, so straight out of the gate I’m making money from it… I have already passed 3 or 4 opportunities to other parties in the chapter and I’m genuinely excited to see what is coming next! You have to ask yourself is it right for everyone, no… You need a lot of time, a lot of commitment and you have to treat it as role in your company. The moto/saying ‘Givers Gain’ is entirely relevant and you will reap the rewards!

I don’t want to focus on BNI, as this isn’t the reason for writing this, but more to introduce you all to Networking! Let’s talk about Choice Networking, Steve runs a more relaxed networking group! There is no membership fees and no requirement to attend frequently, if you can’t make it, then there is no punishment… its £15 a session, served with breakfast and unlimited coffee (always good for morning meetings), so far I’ve attended 3 of these and I’ve actually broken even. The main difference is the contacts I’ve made, you’ll pick up a lot more people at these events as the BNI model can be scary for a lot of companies. They are already starting to refer to me as well! They won’t stop you coming if you’re in BNI as well, so feel free to mix the two. I like Steve and the meetings, so I’m always happy to recommend these, the meeting currently take place every two weeks in the same place but you’ll find them in Darlington, Durham, Newcastle, Gateshead, Middlesbrough, so plenty to choose from!

The final networking group I want to talk about is the Mussel Club (it’s nothing to do with Fish), this is entirely free and on most Fridays across the region. You book in and turn up, there’s no structure, and you just talk to people… I’ve meet some great contacts and at these events and have built solid relationships and business deals. Here you get to meet everyone, charities, SME, Enterprise level businesses (I’ve spoken to Barclaycard at these events) and it’s free.

The key advice I can give anyone, keep going, keep talking, try not to let the repetition wear you down (and it will). The more people see you, the less you need to talk, the more people will talk for you, and you’ll start to find referrals coming in with less effort. Remember that talking to people and building trust is almost as important as the product, people tend to buy from People not companies!

If you want to know more about these networking events, get in touch with me here, or show up!

5 Reasons why Businesses need a website!

  • It’s quick and Easy. Launching a website used to be a long, drawn-out process, but that’s not the case now, after you’ve come up with your idea and picked your domain name (the website address, ie google.co.uk), you can instantly check whether it is available using online tools (like this one), then very quickly register it. For addresses ending in .uk, this process normally takes just a few days. After this, you can employ a web designer – or use a number of free tools available online – to create a site. All in all, a basic five-page website can be registered, built and online within a month.
  • It’s cheap. Domain names do not cost a lot to register. A .co.uk address, for example, will set you back around £3.50 a year. Basic hosting services for small websites are regularly offered at less than £10 per month. If you plan to launch an e-commerce website, shopping cart software with a lifetime licence is now available for just a few hundred pounds, or you could use a commission-based payment provider such as PayPal, which is simple to add onto an existing website. Your most substantial expense is likely to be web design, but even these costs have significantly reduced over the years – and free do-it-yourself alternatives have become increasingly credible, with many businesses now using tools such as WordPress to build a site themselves. All in all, you could spend less than £1,000 to launch a credible, well designed website – a very reasonable expense in light of the potential benefits.

  • It’s always open. With a website you can literally make sales and generate new business in your sleep, dealing with the logistics in the morning.
  • It’s easy to test. You can measure virtually anything about your website. Traffic, ad clicks and where site visitors came from can all be easily monitored using free tools such as Google Analytics, so you can easily see what elements of your site are working and which aren’t. You can then instantly measure the impact of changes to imagery, messages, and promotions, which could help you to quickly develop a smart sales strategy as the site evolves.
  • It’s global. Unlike a bricks-and-mortar store, setting up a website means you have instant global reach, giving you access to an untold wealth of consumers. No longer being bound by location means you can sell to consumers across the world instantly, as the considerable barriers to launching physically in other countries no longer apply. Smart search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies will see your page achieve greater prominence in search listings – if you are an e-commerce business, this is particularly valuable, although national reach is very important for the vast majority of small businesses.