You aren't networking? Are you MAD!?
Confession Time - I am a serial networker!
I network at least 5 times a week and I am a member of BNI, Training Kings, 4Networking and Cherry Pick. In the past I have been a member of the Best Of Organisation and The Chamber of Commerce. I can honestly say that networking has changed my life for the better.
I meet lots of people on an almost daily basis that tell me that networking does not work for their business. I find that a lot of people are negative towards networking and would instead focus all their attention on spending money on other marketing strategies (most of which do not come close from a ROI point of view).
This post is for anyone who thinks networking will not work for their business. Maybe you have tried it and dismissed it. Maybe they have never been a networking meeting before (a networking virgin!). Maybe you had a bad experience. Either way this post is for you.
I should start by saying that within the entertainment industry there are very few people that actually network. I know of only 5 or 6 other magicians that network on a regular basis. Most magicians have one of two strategies when it comes to getting more work.
1. Sit back and wait for the phone to ring while watching netflix (after all that Yellow Pages advert has got to kick in at some point right?!)
2. Wait for an agent to generate the work for them (which still involves sitting round and watching netflix!)
When myself and my business partner decided we wanted to really take our business to the next level networking was the obvious choice. We decided that the best way to network would be to attend an expo and that is where all the business owners hang out!
We turned up and walked around for two hours not having a clue what we were doing. If anything we did our reputation more harm than good as we probably looked like two cast members of the walking dead and not the dynamic performers we were meant to be!
Luckily a gentleman called Doug D'Aubrey saw us and invited us to BNI (I am fairly sure to this day that he felt sorry for us). This man has since gone on to be our business consultant and I cannot say enough good things about him or his company 'ETC'. At the time I am pretty sure he couldn't have imagined in his wildest dreams we would go on to achieve any level of success or stick around a networking group for more than one week.
When I actually went to BNI for the first time I looked around the room and one thought jumped into my head
"How the bloody hell can these people help a magician?"
After all there were solicitors, accountants and estate agents. There were no venues or wedding planners or ANYONE that I thought could help me. As the meeting progressed I realised I had to do a 60 second 'Elevator' pitch to sell my business to everyone in the room. You would think as a professional performer I would be able to do this with one hand tied behind my back. In reality I was scared to death. I can honestly say I have never been so nervous. It is now a record within BNI that I gave the worst 60 second pitch in the history of the company (this might not be true but it is a distinct possibility).
I made it through the meeting and upon being asked if I was going to join without thinking I said yes. This was not because I believed in BNI or networking. This is not because I had any desire to network again. The reason was our start up company was doing terribly. Both myself and my business partner were not taking a wage. instead we were paying our savings into the company to help it survive. We had very little work coming in and didn't really know how to get more. I WAS DESPERATE.
Luckily that one act of desperation was the best thing I have ever done. Over the following three years I have developed a reputation within the networking circuit of being THE MAGICIAN to go to when anyone needs entertainment. On the back of networking Slightly Unusual has thrived. We have set up another magic company which is performing exceptionally. Our turnover has gone from next to nothing to close to £1,000,000 a year.
I say this not to brag to explain how important networking is to me and my business. Networking has literally changed my life. It has allowed me to get more work than I ever imagined. It has helped me think like a business owner and not a magician. I have become friends with some truly inspirational people. People who I never would have had a chance to meet any other way. I have been able to surround myself with experts in various fields that I can call on whenever I need help and advice.
So if you are trying to decide if networking can work for your business the answer is a rather resounding YES. It can work for any business but it will not work for every person. You have to be committed. You have to work hard. You have to build up relationships. You have to develop a 'Givers Gain' mentality. Networking is not a get rich quick scheme or a quick fix. Networking is a long term marketing strategy that if used correctly will change your life and your massively improve you business.
So if you are thinking of starting networking in the words of Nike
"JUST DO IT"
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Thanks for reading. Have a great day.