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Over the past year an increasingly large share of my income has come through orders I’ve got from people I have met networking.

The recession has been tough and non-essential items have been cut out from a lot of budgets.  As a maker I have felt this as a steady reduction in online orders and takings at craft fairs.  However, one area of my marketing activity has continued to be buoyant and has accounted for an ever-growing proportion of my takings – that area is networking.

So why does networking result in orders when other more traditional activities have been a bit of a struggle? I think these points could have something to do with it.

  1. If you run a business you are more likely to support those who also run a business – I’ve not researched this, but just from my own experience, most of the people I speak to networking are running their own businesses – they understand how much effort and energy you put in and therefore want to buy from people who are also running their own businesses.
  2. You are like a breath of fresh air! No disrespect to accountants, book-keepers, business coaches and web designers (these are all essential professions whose services I have used!) but networking events can be rather dominated by them, so as a designer/maker, you are a bit like a breath of fresh air.  Other networkers are genuinely surprised by and interested in what you do.
  3. There is no product on show, so no pressure to buy! You know the sort of craft fair customers who stay a safe distance from your stand in case you somehow compel them to buy when they don’t want to?  Networking addresses this fear head on, because they can find out all about what you do but can’t be forced to buy because you haven’t got anything there to sell!  They get interested in your business and you as a maker.  You swap cards and then send them a follow up email.  They can then look all over your website and because they know you and have enjoyed your conversation there is a much greater chance that when they see something they like, they will buy it.

There are lots of networking groups and activities around Nottingham and it is really about finding a style, time and group that suits you, but have a look at the following:

Rushcliffe Business Partnership – free, informal, networking each month in West Bridgford for Rushcliffe based businesses. http://rbpbusiness.org.uk

Castle Business – more formal membership based networking  - every Wednesday, 9.15am at the Poppy & Pint in Lady Bay. http://castlebusiness.co.uk

Shamshad Walker Networking  - Shamshad runs networking events at various locations with morning and early evening times.  Each event also promotes and raises money for a charity. http://www.shamshadwalker.co.uk/networking.html

If you have a networking event that works for you, do share it!