It doesn't matter what you do for a living or how big your business is, we all need a network. Networking is marketing yourself and consideration should be given to actively doing more. Every business owner needs a network... no man or woman is an island. We are all advertising somewhere online and off and as individuals we should look at how and where we can physically be to strengthen our place in the market, and nothing beats human interaction, no matter how successful you are online.
Even in rural France there are networking opportunities out there. Active networking is an ongoing process, as with other activities within our businesses. It requires time, effort and commitment. Active networking helps you obtain leads, referrals, support and advice.
Being part of a network involves a number of skills, and is not primarily what you can get out of a network but more of what you can put in. The more contribution you give, the more you get back. Reputation and trust increases and ultimately you reap what you sow. The more trust in a network the better for all. And working at this takes time and effort. How many times have you been to a networking event and the biggest ego cramps the room, sweeps the floor, you exchange business cards, they spend a few minutes talking about themselves, showing no interest in you and very quickly they are talking to the next person. The very next day you are on their data mailing list and being spammed.
Nothing beats a beer and a bbq sausage and side order of small talk about how's business going? Be open to people you meet at social gatherings. Don't do overkill at social gatherings, keep it light and where relevant follow up after the event.
We are all actively networking each day to some degree with our clients, with our friends and family, our suppliers and/or supporting local events organised by other businesses or associations.
Groups on Facebook have sprung up fast for niche groups and geographical areas. Some are public while others are private. Limit self promotion. Groups, as with face to face networking, should be shown similar grace and etiquette. Give more than you receive, contribute often. A flyer or post dumped onto a group is not networking or inspiring to do business with you.
Business networking groups
While these might seem to be few and far between there are more and more face to face networking groups being created plus formal networking groups and plenty of French ones too! So please don't be put off. If there isn't one in your area, build one.
Founder of Oui Chef - Boutonne Business Networking Group for owners of small businesses in a 50km radius of Chef Boutonne.