To be honest, over the last few years I have steered away from business networking events. Why? Well firstly most networking events tend to be run at breakfast time, which is the most awkward time for any working mum. Secondly I suppose I had become comfortable in my existing network. The reality is that the size of your business network is not what’s important. It is the influence of the people within that network that counts.
When Blink PR was in its infancy, I wasted countless hours, and money, attending various network events, swapping business cards with people who only wanted to sell and not buy. I would go, full of the intention to meet some well-connected people of commercial value, only to be disappointed and wired on excess coffee and cake.
It was therefore with some trepidation and low-expectation that I decided to go to the Combe Business – Open for Business – Event, today at the Landmark Theatre in Ilfracombe.
All I can say is that my mind has been changed. The Event included an exhibition of some 30 local businesses, all of whom were legitimate, credible companies, brimming with enthusiasm and expertise. These networkers clearly were influential introducers and full of recommendations for connections, without the hard sell. In addition to the Exhibition, there was also a full conference and speaker timetable, which included an overview of inward investment by Tim Jones, Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership, and a detailed insight into one of North Devon’s manufacturing success stories, TDK-Lambda UK.
All of the businesses I saw today are part of the organisation ‘Combe Business’ which promotes business around Ilfracombe, Woolacombe and Combe Martin and has the overall ambition to change perception of the area and promote it as a thriving business community, to attract investment, superfast broadband, and custom.
So, you might be wondering at this point, what this has to do with you and your marketing? Well if you are a business in North Devon, you might consider joining Combe Business and coming along to one of their future networking events. I would thoroughly recommend it.
Any other business, large or small, in any area, might like to consider networking. I would recommend you don’t dismiss networking, but choose carefully. After all, it is your time and time is money. The most successful businesses all use the same power of attraction, so look into who is exhibiting. Do some research. Dig into the conference and speaker timetable, are there any movers and shakers who will attract the right sort of audience you would like to be part of?
Finally, don’t forget to follow up on your discussions. It is no good having a stack of business cards, if you then don’t pursue the initial connection.
I’d better get started.