The Top 20 Guide to UK Business Networking and Collaboration Groups, Events and Websites
Although salesXchange can boost your exposure and presence, networking the right way always helps.
Business-to-Business networking has become one of the most popular methods of new business generation for small to medium sized businesses in the UK, but it is also known for being a "slow-burn" process.
The reason business-to-business networking is so popular is because the traditional approaches, such as cold calling and telesales, are now less effective, as business and non-commercial buyers have more choices to be informed and buy products via the internet.
Businesses need a different strategy to connect with new customers and the easiest method is through networking contacts and business referrals, which generate new business leads.
Business Networking Etiquette Top Ten
Here are some important points to bear in mind when you go business networking:
- Networking is not a get-rich-quick strategy. Your objective is to find businesses you can work with, collaborate with and share common goals
- You need to focus on trying to help other people sell their products or services. When they see how committed you are to helping them, they will begin to reward your efforts
- If you’re new in business, use networking to find your perfect partners with a view to sharing information, prospects and marketing costs
- Plan your 40-60 second introduction and try not to read from a piece of paper; it will add to your credibility. Make sure you mention your experience, what you do, what type of customers you are looking for and who you would like to work with
- Plan ahead. If someone is worth speaking to for longer, make an appointment there and then. Have your diary on you
- Show interest in the other people speaking (i.e. don’t be texting or playing with your phone); you want everyone in the room to listen to you when you speak so it’s only fair
- Get some brochures printed. If there isn’t enough time to speak to everyone, your brochure will carry your message for much longer than their memories!
- Ask the people you speak to if it’s ok to put them on your mailing list or if they wouldn’t mind you keeping in touch by email. Then follow up regularly
- Be consistent. Once you find a group you enjoy, attend regularly, be a good time keeper, complete your online profile as best you can and finally – enjoy yourself (once you get over the initial “fish out of water” feeling!)
Business to Business Networking Event Types
There are many different formats for business networking. You can choose which one suits you the best:
- Breakfast Networking – This also refers to lunch and dinner networking clubs too. The typical format for breakfast networking is that you chat and introduce yourself when you arrive, then you sit down for something to eat and during this time each member stands up and introduces themselves for about 40-60 seconds. After this intro session, there may be a 10-minute presentation and then possibly three ten-minute meetings with some of the other members. Each networking group will vary.
- Event Networking Clubs – Not just business networking but activities too. Event Networking Clubs can be in the form of sports (e.g. golf, go-karting, polo or any other activity), exhibitions, seminars, presentations or promotions. Event Networking organisers hold networking sessions to complement their main event or product offering.
- Speed Networking – Best described as a series of mini-meetings, Speed Networking puts business people together for 2 minutes to talk and then it’s on to the next person. You can meet up to five to fifteen contacts in a speed networking session so it’s important you have your pitch worked out.
- Industry or Status Specific Networking – This is where businesses from the same sector or individuals at the same corporate level meet (e.g. CEO/Managing Directors) and share ideas and problems. This is popular because a CEO of a large business would not have much in common with someone running a business from home.
- Online Business Networking – For some it is preferable to start business networking online. Some networking sites are regional, and some are international. Online business networking can be a good way to find out about people first before meeting up with them, especially if you are looking for specific individuals to work with.
The Top 20 UK Business to Business Networking Groups
This is by no means an exhaustive list of business networking groups, but it does give you an idea of what is available in the UK.
- 4Networking www.4networking.biz
- BNI www.bni-europe.com/uk
- British Chamber of Commerce www.hertschamber.com/networking
- Bucks Fizz www.bucks-fizz.biz
- Business Buzz www.business-buzz.org
- Business Biscotti www.businessbiscotti.co.uk
- Business Club www.the-businessclub.org
- Business Junction (Central London) www.businessjunction.co.uk
- Business Leaders Network www.thebln.com
- Business Connextions www.business-connexions.com
- Business Over Breakfast www.bobclubs.com
- Cross Reference www.networkinggerrardscross.co.uk
- Effective Business Network www.ebn.uk.com
- Fabnetworking fabnetworking.co.uk
- G9 www.g9networking.co.uk
- NRG Networks www.nrg-networks.co.uk
- Viva www.viva-networking.co.uk
- The Good Business Group www.thegbg.uk
- The Business Network www.business-network.co.uk
- The Network www.networkbucks.co.uk
Business to Business Networking Sites
Before you begin your foray into Business Networking, visiting business-to-business networking sites is probably a good place to start.
There are several networking sites at your fingertips and most of them are free and allow you to post up pretty comprehensive information about you and your business.
The general idea is to present your business online to other business people you could connect with. You would get to know each other by either speaking on the telephone, having an on-line chat or meeting up. Generally the idea is to support each other’s businesses through referrals, recommendation and possibly sales.
Business Networking Online Sites
Many of the online business networking sites also organise their own face-to-face networking events so it’s not all done online.
Business Networking Directory Web Sites
Find out what's going on in your part of the world and get networking!
- Best of Hertfordshire www.thebestof.co.uk/regional/hertfordshire/
- Find Networking Events www.findnetworkingevents.com
- Networking in Bucks www.networkinginbucks.co.uk
However, there is a caveat with Business Networking; you need to accept that the process can take quite some time and, unless it is done properly and with a strategy in mind, the rewards can be few and far between. Yet, there is an alternative, which will give your business access to more prospects and potential customers than through networking alone. So now you may be asking yourself, how do I do this?
Do I need now to be a Marketing Guru to grow my business?
When you run your own business there is the expectation for you to be an expert in your field and to be at the top of your game. You’re also expected to be a sales and marketing guru – and that can be really tough! There’s also a fine balance between delivering a great service and keeping new business rolling in; we know, it’s not easy.
The internet gives us unprecedented access to information and the way people buy has changed. Browsers are looking for information and access to companies they can trust to buy from; but how do they decide?
What are the options for you and your prospective customers?
In just a moment we’ll explain how we've changed the way businesses, customers and salespeople can interact and how we can help sky-rocket your profits, but first, we'll take a look at why sales is now so difficult…
How is buying a sofa relevant to business?
When you decide to buy a new sofa, you don’t get hit by a bolt of lightning and suddenly rush out to the local store and buy one. Instead, you gradually decide over a period of time, i.e. when the old sofa becomes so unbearable, you then go and start looking for a new one.
It’s no different in business. Eventually, when a problem has caused enough pain, someone decides to start looking at a solution - THIS is the point you want to be noticed.
Will my business be safe if I buy this new…?
Then there's the other issue. When buying for a business, there’s the added concern about the effect the new product or service will have on it. Prospects ask themselves:
- Will the benefits outweigh the pain of implementing the new product/service?
- Can I be bothered to install it (Is the reward great enough? Will it really deliver an ROI?)
- If I leave things as they are, how long will it be before I have no choice but to change?
Although it's your job to reassure the prospect about the new purchase, the fact still remains that he/she needs to know 'what's in it for them' before they make the next move.
- The decision to change is driven by the level of pain
- The decision who to buy from invariably starts with the Internet as 60% of decisions are made before someone even speaks to you
- And it's at this point you want to be visible on your prospects’ radar - And yes, it's possible...
How to get more business, no, really!
You might have heard it before, but just in case you haven’t, here goes, firstly you must understand your customer and by that I mean:
- Know their pain, don’t try and guess, ask them and find out
- Know their gender (yes it does matter)
- Know their history, their business progress and successes
- Know their relationships with others, from joint ventures to social media connections
- Know their connections with others within their organisations and try to determine who the decision makers are
- Know their activities, in the press, online and locally
- Don’t stalk them, but know where they hang out, read their magazines, find out what’s happening in their industry
Once you’ve got an idea about who you’re actually targeting, you will be that much closer to securing more sales. This approach can also be viewed as Account Based Marketing – ABM, although this strategy is best applied with the use of marketing automation software and the buy-in of everyone in the selling company.
Now, you can start sending out mailshots, start cold-calling and phoning!!! Please don't...
Collaboration and syndicate marketing is 21st century selling
Do you think that Stage 1 and Stage 2 are a bit long winded? A bit too intense? A bit too much effort? I agree. Stage One is ok, but Stage Two is out of date and not what customers want. They’re fed up with cold calls, meaningless direct mail and all the other damp squib attempts at attracting them. They expect something more. This is why we created salesXchange Syndicates to provide a sales and marketing framework to help businesses sell to each other’s customers.
Where networking groups give you the possibility of being introduced to the other members' customers, a salesXchange Syndicate gives you access to the customers of four other businesses, on a regular basis, through quality content, introductions and exclusive events. The strategy is built-in so that as a member of a syndicate, you can be assured that your business is visible to prospective customers on a regular basis. No other 'networking' group can give you this guarantee.
If you'd like more information check out our website, download our brochure or give us a call on 0800 970 9751 and we'll explain how you can get your business into a syndicate marketing group.
About the Author
Nigel is the Founder & Managing Director of salesXchange and has been helping businesses for over 25 years to develop their marketing, technologies and infrastructure to generate more profits, more efficiently. His recent book "Integrate! The Essential Business Technology & Marketing Handbook" can be downloaded from Amazon.