Networking: where do I start?

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:

  1. To identify appropriate  networking groups, forums and events through which to network into my target sectors and with key decision makers
  2. 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:

  1. They needed to be industry specific
  2. They needed to be attended by key decision makers
  3. They needed to be free or of minimal cost
  4. 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….