Despite the fact we live in a ‘global world’ it never fails to surprise me how localised various industries seem to remain. Indeed, the old adage, “it’s not what you know; it’s who you know” seems to remain a significant component of doing business in the 21st century. And it is with some modicum of frustration that I note that this challenge – of knowing the ‘right’ people – seemingly exists regardless of the compelling nature of your solution.
To clarify, I am not suggesting that a business will not be successful without actively ‘networking’ but rather that networking itself, or more importantly monetising those networks, remains a key component of business.
It was with this in mind, and with aspirations to replicate the success of Debra Meaden, that I began my ‘networking career’ back in July 2010 – beginning from a standing start my objective was two-fold:
- To identify appropriate networking groups, forums and events through which to network into my target sectors and with key decision makers
- To gain access to these key decision makers on behalf of my client
Challenge 1, which I somewhat naively thought would be easily solved through a few hours of internet research was in reality rather more challenging. Although a plethora of networking groups, forums and events exist identifying the right ones and subsequently maximising my time was a key consideration. With this in mind I set out to find groups which met my 4 criteria below:
- They needed to be industry specific
- They needed to be attended by key decision makers
- They needed to be free or of minimal cost
- They needed to be easy for me to access
What I hadn’t allowed for in this criteria however was that the group itself need to accept or preferably welcome industry outsiders. Indeed, as I quickly found out a significant number of groups were not keen to admit people who they saw as targeting their members with the eventual aim of selling to them – in retrospect hardly surprising.
As a result, this process was much like internet dating, involving some rejection, a little flirting to establish the relevance of each party to the other and an eventual agreement that ‘we were well suited’.
Eventually, after over a month of searching I joined two very different networking groups, one in each of my target industries.
To be continued….