If you run your own small business, keeping a close watch on sales and attracting new customers are probably pretty high on your daily list of things to do. There are plenty of ways to attract new customers to your door and obviously online activity and social media are incredibly important to most businesses.
But what about good old face to face networking? Is it worth investing your time and energy into getting out there, pressing the flesh and spreading the word? The answer – as it is with most things – is, it depends. Whether or not it’s a good thing for your business depends on what type of business you have and how much time (and money) you’re prepared to invest.
There are plenty of business networking groups and events all over Australia, and a quick Google search should bring up a range of possibilities in your local area. Here we run through the pros and cons of a few of the more high profile networking opportunities.
Chamber of Commerce
Your local Chamber of Commerce usually hosts regular monthly networking and educational events as well as conducting forums that focus on key issues relating to the local area. Many of the events also offer sponsorship opportunities so if you’ve got deep pockets you can be seen and heard by a wide range of people.
Most of the networking events happen over breakfast or lunch, with the occasional golf day thrown in. Expect a decent speaker to present and some interesting conversation with the people at your table.
BNI (Business Networks International)
BNI is the world’s largest business networking and business referral organisation – last year, members passed over 9.8 million referrals resulting in more than $13 billion in business around the globe. There are more than 240,000 members worldwide, with chapters in every city and most regional towns across Australia. Chapter size varies but is usually 25 – 50 members. It’s not unusual for chapters to generate literally millions of dollars of business for their members each year.
BNI provides a positive, supportive, and structured environment for the development and exchange of quality business referrals. It does this by helping members to build relationships with dozens of other qualified business professionals. Members meet on a weekly basis for around 90 minutes.
Meetup is an online platform that promotes all kinds of activities where people can – you guessed it – meet up for a variety of interests. You’ll find a wide range of Meetups in your local area including lots of business networking events. Most Meetups are free for members (although if there is food involved you’ll need to pay for it) and you can see how many members have joined each Meetup, and how many are planning on going to the next event.
The shape of the events will depend very much on the organiser and some of them will literally be hundreds of people in the same room all frantically passing business cards and trying to speed date with as many other businesses as possible.
Goldmine or waste of time?
Business networks can be a goldmine for your business – but only if you find the right one and invest plenty of time in it. The old adage of you get out what you put in is certainly true when it comes to business networking. Our advice is to get out there and try a few out before making a commitment.
Need a hand?
If joining a networking group sounds like it would be a good thing for your business but the membership fees are a little out of reach right now, we can lend a hand. Just check out our flexible mini-loans up to $5K to see how quick and easy it is to get your hands on some extra funds. Once a loan is approved, we can usually deposit the cash into your bank account within a few hours - so you can start checking out those business networking opportunities right now!