Business Networking is now a major force for those of us who work as solopreneurs or are part of small teams, so it is useful to understand some of the ways to make it work for you!
There are some really good reasons for networking, but you need to know how to ‘play the game’ to make the most of it. The type of group you choose to join depends on what you plan to get out of your networking.
So, what might you hope to get out of regular networking?
- Connection. Working from home or alone can be lonely, networking can be the lone worker’s equivalent to the coffee machine.
- Connections. You may meet people who may be supportive to your business and vice versa.
- Introductions. Other networkers may be able to introduce you to the people you most want to meet.
- Clients. There could be people who need your services or know someone who does.
- Potential collaborators. There might be people who would be ideal to work with.
- Education. Some networking organisations invite brilliant speakers.
- Specifically, as a hypnotherapist you may also want to meet practitioners of different forms of therapies who you can share referrals with.
All these people may well be at a meeting, but don’t expect to leave a meeting with any of them (apart from the connection and education.) This is just the start.
You need to get to know these people, so you start to have one on one meetings. Just like any other relationship, there needs to be a process of “know, like, trust” before you can start to share openly and freely with one another. It is highly unlikely that you will want to start this deeper exploration with everybody, so be selective. It may sound mercenary, but this is a business activity. You need to think about what you might each bring to the table – do you like what you already know of this person? You can build on the process by attending the same group regularly too.
Generosity of spirit makes networking most effective but take care not to over-give! A free taster session for a limited number of people for a limited time period can help raise awareness of your business, but rarely leads to more business directly. It is like scattering seeds – eventually something might pop out of the ground and bloom, but there are no guarantees. However, passing somebody’s details to a contact they are desperate to access; recommending somebody you have used for a service, builds the relationship.
What type of group you choose to go to depends on who you are, who you want to meet and how committed you want to be.
Formal networking groups such as BNI or some Chambers of Commerce have a paid membership and mostly meet over breakfast. They have a constitution which states that all members will make referrals to one another. There are typically representatives of local small to medium businesses, and most offer a first visit free of charge.
There are numerous women’s networking groups, some of which are open to men! They typically follow a basic format where each person is offered one minute to speak about their business, cards are passed around the table and there is a 20 minute business presentation. Many are informal, drop in events, but regular attendance definitely makes for a better networking experience. Many of these organisations have several groups, so you can spread around to different towns if that appeals to you. There are also groups which will allow one or two visits before you need to pay a membership fee and commit. Most of these have lockouts – that is they will only accept one person from a particular role. Personally, I’m not a fan of this! I understand the reasoning, but in my network for instance there are three regular attendees and we’re all hypnotherapists. We aren’t competing with one another, but we do cross refer and support one another. So, the lockout means you may or may not be able to join.
Before committing to paid membership, ask questions. Do people gain business as a result of being a member? How many people renew their memberships? What other groups do members belong to and how do they compare?
Then there are the myriad varieties of ‘coffee’ meetings. “Cappuccino connections”, “Business Biscotti” and a whole host more! Most offer at least a couple of low-priced visits and are worth a go.
And of course, there are specialist groups too, which focus on members of the healing, therapeutic and change-makers community. They provide the opportunity to get to know people who you would trust with your clients. In my group for instance I have a podiatrist, a reflexologist, two other hypnotherapists and others who I refer my clients to without hesitation. We can’t be all things to all people but being able to signpost adds to your reputation as a great hypnotherapist.
The latest addition is online networking. The brilliant thing here is that you can do it from your home or office! On first site it may seem challenging – how do we meet the expectations of a regular type of meeting. However, many of us are now working increasingly online so how fabulous that we have the whole world to share with and support!
Finally, you need to be prepared for networking meetings.
- Take your business cards and any other promotional material
- Find out how long attendees get to speak
- Practice and time your *elevator pitch!
- Dress as you do when working (unless it’s an evening casual event.)
- Take your diary (“I’ll contact you to arrange…..” is inefficient! Book it now.)
- Take your smile and open- heart with you
Your elevator pitch is normally referred to as your ‘minute’. It is your chance to tell everyone who you are, what you do and how you can be of service to your specific audience. Find out who your audience will be before planning your pitch – there is a misconception that a single, well-rehearsed snippet will work everywhere. It won’t! Your aim is to be memorable for the right reasons and make people want to know more about you.
There are networking groups everywhere, and an ever-growing list here at Hypno HQ, so I strongly encourage you to give it a go!
Karen Puttick is a Clinical Hypnotherapist based in Amersham, Bucks and online. She is the Founder of The Healing Tree Network, offering a monthly local group and online networking for change-makers. She also offers supervision and peer support both face to face and online. Karen is happy to answer questions you may have about networking, peer support and supervision.