Networking in Milton Keynes

As I said in my previous post, Making Networking Work, I am a keen networker and get an awful lot from attending the meetings. I am quite choosy about where I go, though, as I could have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at a networking meeting if I didn’t actually need to do some normal work too!

The previous post focused on networking in Northampton, but I also attend a few meetings in Milton Keynes …

WIBN Milton Keynes – Women only – Meet at Abbet Hill Hotel, Two Mile Ash on the first Tuesday of the month from 12-2pm.

This meeting has the same format as the WIBN Northampton meeting I mentioned in my previous post.  Also members at both meetings get to take it in turns to make a longer 10 minute presentation to the group, and one of the members also runs a ‘training’ slot which usually covers some aspect of business development or ways of making the most of your networking. The Milton Keynes group has recently moved from Stony Stratford and been re-launched, and as such is growing fast.  The meetings are informative and fun and also include a buffet lunch in the hotel. I find WIBN a great mix between being more formal and business like compared to the groups which do not demand a membership fee, but also relaxing enough that you feel you can be yourself. You need to commit to come every month to get the most out of these meetings, and bringing guests is encouraged as long as their sector is not already covered. See a list of members and contact details at the WIBN website.WIBN

Business Biscotti – Meet at The Living Room, The Hub Milton Keynes, on the 3rd Wednesday of the month from 9.30 – 1130am.

I have only managed to go to this meeting once, but it is another good meeting for dipping your toe into networking for the first time, as the cost is low but the meeting I went to was fairly busy.  You can just turn up, and tea and coffee is included – but it is up to you to choose who to chat to and if you want to swap cards, as there is no formal part to the meeting. You can find contact details of the Ambassadors who normally attend the meetings on the website.

Coffee and Cake – Meet at Dobbies Garden Centre, Fenny Stratford, every other Thursday from 9.30 to 11.30am.

Run by local IFA Jennifer Nicholls, who is also a Business Biscotti ambassador, this is a great meeting with a mix of the formal and the relaxed. We gather in the conservatory of the garden centre and when everyone has had a chance to enjoy a drink (the cake is optional!) then Jennifer calls us to order and we all give our 1 minute pitch about our business – you will see from my posts that quite a few groups have a 1 minute slot so it is best to have one prepared if you don’t like talking off the cuff.  Once we have handed round cards, people break into smaller groups to chat, which is made easier by the fact that you will have had the chance to decide who you want to connect with during the 1 minute talks. Coffee and Cake has a Linked In group page, or you can email Jennifer for more information on jnicholls@tamarifa.co.uk.

Nova Networking – Meet at Odell House, Newport Pagnell, on the 2nd Monday of the month from 12 – 2pm.

Chaired by Jules White of The Last Hurdle, this is probably one of the most relaxed networking meetings I have been to, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t professional. This is another group which when you join your sector is ‘locked out’ so you need to book in to check if you are able to attend. You need your ‘1 minute’ prepared and we also have a testimonials slot which always shows how much business is being done in the room. It’s a great group to join, as the members are incredibly supportive and there is a vibrant Twitter community which stems from the meetings – look for @NovaNetworkOrg on twitter and check out the website.

I hope that these two posts about local meetings prove useful, and I would love to hear about the networking groups you would recommend, too.

Nova Networking

Nova Networking

Advertisements

Making Networking Work

I am a keen networker, and have been for three years. It serves more than one purpose for me. Apart from the obvious advantage of finding new business leads, I have met and got to know other excellent local business people, I have made good  friends, and it gets me out of the office and gives me the social element that running your own business often lacks. In fact, most of our new customers over the last three years can be traced directly back to someone I originally got to know through a networking meeting.

Once you have met someone through networking, the best way to get to know them better is to have a follow-up meeting or a one-to-one, where you find out about each other’s business. I tend to meet people in a local coffee shop or for lunch. It is quite often a revelation how much you have in common, or how business ideas or possible partnerships can come from these meetings, even when you thought your business was nothing to do with the business of the person you are meeting. I also find it useful to meet people who are in the same business as myself, as we can often refer business to each other, or have extra niches of expertise that can prove very useful.

I find I am regularly asked at these one-to-one meetings which other networking meetings I go to – and what I get out of them – this gave me the idea for a couple of blog posts about the local networking meetings I do attend – to save me copying and pasting the information into countless emails!

Networking in Northampton

Synergy Networking Group – Meet at Yeoman of England, Wootton Village, Northampton 9.30am to 11.30 – usually on a Monday once a month – contact Mandy (mandy@forever-yourfuture.co.uk) for details of the next meeting.

This is a low-cost  meeting (£6 including drinks) which varies in size for 3-4 people up to 15 in the most popular months. It is an excellent first networking meeting for nervous new networkers. We sit around a table in the pub and chat and catch up – and even when the meetings are small they are excellent for getting to know other local business people.Synergy

WIBN Northampton – Women only networking – Meet at The Old White Hart, Far Cotton on the 3rd Thursday of the month – this is a ‘lock out’ group, so you can only attend if your type of business is not already represented – take a look at the website for members and contact details to book.

WIBN Northampton was my first ‘serious’ networking group – and by that I mean the first one I joined for which you need to pay an annual membership fee, although visitors are welcome.  It is more formal in format and members get to present a 1-minute talk about their business to the room, pass business cards and flyers round, and also give testimonials about work done by other members. It is a great place to take a prospective client, as if you are established in the group other members will most likely say great things about you!  You need to commit to attending every month if you join, but it is well worth it, as the connections you make can go far.WIBN

Northampton Business Breakfast (FSB) – Meet at Westone Manor Hotel, Weston Favell on the  2nd Friday of the Month from 7.15am to 9am. Visitors are welcome and pay a little more than members. email jo@office-octopus.co.uk who is the branch secretary.

There are many breakfast networking meetings in the area, but as a busy Mum with school runs to do I cannot often free my time to go. I visited this group first, though, and really enjoyed the format, the people and the food – so I have now joined the FSB and make the effort to go every month.  While breakfast is being served you have the opportunity to present your business in 1 minute to everyone on your table – so selecting where you sit is important if you want to make new connections. Business cards and flyers can be displayed and handed out round your table too.  There is a talk each month which usually proves interesting and informative. If you wish to visit as a guest, please let me know, as we both get a discount compared to if you just book for yourself! FSB - ogo

I hope my small insight into these three different meetings proves useful. I will follow up this post with a similar Networking in Milton Keynes post soon, as we live directly between the two towns, so I am ideally placed to network in both places.

Maximising the power of networking

Many of us realise the power of networking and how it can bring in new business, but how can you make sure you make the most of going to those meetings – and ensure that you remain in the forefront of people’s minds? I thought I would share some techniques which really seem to work, so when people need a some Aloe Vera they think of me. When I return home from a networking meeting it is usually with a handful of business cards. As soon as I can I enter the contact details of who I have met into our ACT! contact management database, with a brain dump of who the people are and what sort of business people are looking for. I include which meeting we met at and when. This means I remember who I have met, and I can easily put people in touch with each other if relevant. Next I will send an email out following up any promises I made in the meeting, putting people in touch with each other or passing on useful information. In this email I also remind people who I am and ask if they would like to receive my monthly e-newsletters. I don’t assume everyone wants my newsletter, and ask people to opt in, as I know how annoying unsolicited email can be. This two pronged approach of recording the details of meeting people, with a timely follow up, ensures that I stay in the forefront of people’s minds. It also helps me to measure the success of the meetings I go to. This week I had a call from a company wanting an upgrade of their Sage accounts; they had got my details from their IT services provider, who in turn had heard about me from a local firm of accountants. I was able to look up in my ACT! database where I had last met someone from the accountants firm, and send a personal thank you. It turns out I had met them right back in February this year at a  Towcester Business Club meeting, but they had been receiving my monthly e-newsletters. I am sure that is why, when they were asked for an expert in Sage 50, they thought of me. By acknowledging the referral and thanking them I will hopefully be thought of again when a similar situation arises. So make sure you too become a ‘good networker’ and make the most of the time you spend going to meetings. You never quite know where that next referral is going to come from. If you are a novice networker then take a look at the post my friend Liz Broomfield, an editor, writer and proof-reader from Birmingham, has published – Networking for Newbies.

Learning to be a good blogger – phase 2!

Today I went on another course to help me improve my knowledge about blogging, this time run by the East Midlands eBusiness Club.  The Club is a virtual support network which was created to help companies make the best use of our Information Communication Technologies (so that is what ICT stands for!) in order to boost business performance.

The events are run all over the region; the one I attended today was in a very nice hotel on the outskirts of Daventry, and topics range from Blogging for business (the one I attended today) to Google analytics and conversion, developing a mobile marketing strategy, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO – took me a while to twig that acronym too!), Pay per Click  and Email marketing and Facebook and LinkedIn courses.

I found the course to be very interesting, it didn’t tell me much that I did not know already, but the trainer, Liam Lally of Transformational ICT, made it easy to follow and amusing in places, and I was pleased I went, even just to know that I am going along the right track with this blog.

The biggest value was in chatting to other attendees and networking before the meeting, and the bacon sandwiches were quite tasty too.

So what was the cost of this 2 hour breakfast seminar?  It was FREE!  The event was hosted by Northamptonshire Chamber and they don’t charge attendees.

These events are only available until March 2012, funded by the East Midlands Development Agency, so click on the links above and see if your business can take advantage of the seminars on offer too.

For my other posts about blogging then follow this link.

How sharing your expertise for free can pay dividends

I had a call this week out of the blue from someone who needed Sage training.  As part of our monitoring of new leads we always ask people how they came to hear about us, as I do quite a lot of networking and social media marketing and it is good to monitor how effective these are at bringing in new business.  This person had done a Google search, and postings I had made on a forum had come up high in the results list so they followed the link in order to contact me at Silicon Bullet.

This seems to be the most common source of our enquiries these days. An IT services provider I met networking also said they had a problem with their Sage instant accounts and Googled “changing your financial year”, and again my advice post came up quite high on the list, even several months after the advice had been given.

The particular forum I contribute to mostly is UK Business Forums where I have been a member since 2009.  I mostly hang out in the Accounting and Finance area, ready to give advice if anyone has a problem with Sage software.  I  have been able to ask for advice too when I have been unsure about something.

So without updating my website, and worrying about search engine optimisation, my name is coming up when people do a Google search, and what is more I am proving my credentials and expertise by the advice I have given. And I can quantify the new business I have had as a direct result.

Also you become known on the forums for the advice you give, so I have also had direct enquiries from other forum users for my Sage software and services, and I have had bookkeeping enquiries passed my way also; so there are two ways I have benefited from membership.

So think about where your expertise lies – is there a forum where you could share some knowledge?  Who knows, it could pay dividends for you too.

UK Business Forum message header