31 Jul 3. Networking
‘Networking is more about Farming than it is about Hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships’ says Dr Ivan Misne
Networking remains the ‘raison d’etre’ for most people to join groups of shared or common interest. It comes into its own within a commercial context, where the relationships formed may not be immediate but they are deep rooted and grow with familiarity, knowledge and experience of each other’s industry.
Business success is not an isolated pursuit, although it is good to be hungry for success and to hunt down your end users. However, if you go for the kill, they are unlikely to be repeat customers or more importantly ambassadors for your skills and commerce. Recommendation can never be discounted from the most important line in your accounts: Marketing.
It is with great sadness Gillingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry note the loss of yet another high street business in Gillingham. A business that opened amid such joy and excitement for the future, just 15 months ago. Of course, we can never know the exact reasons behind their decision to pull out of the High Street just as we will never know the reason many others have left.
Talking to people, lamenting yet another empty shop front, I was surprised to hear their comments:
“Are they still about? I thought they went ages ago, you never hear about them.”
“I didn’t even know they were in the high street, did they advertise they were there?”
“Who, never heard of them.”
“Were they involved with any of the business or community initiatives?”
Well they aren’t anymore.
Maybe my friends and colleagues have a point, a small independent business needs to shout louder about itself. What about the other nearly 1000 businesses in Gillingham, those that are not shops and do not have the luxury of footfall passing to entice them in. How can they promote their presence?
Marketing and business are entwined in an unbreakable bond, neither can survive without the other. Marketing is an organic process, often subliminal and often vocalised that heralds a business’ existence. Networking is an integral part of that.
For as long as there has been commerce there has been networking. Old boys networking, Masons, Rotary, Round Table, Lions and Chamber of Commerce are all business networking groups supporting their own members and promoting them.
Networking is not as many believe and some of the high-powered networking groups provide, where you are shamed if you do not bring leads to the table each week. True networking is the slow build up of trust and contacts. In the words of Dr Misner, it’s the ‘cultivating of relationships’.
As the name suggests it is spreading your net wider. Often the contact you make is not the contact you later do business with but a conduit for future opportunities. A sandwich and cake shop on the high street might meet an accountant who can introduce them to a packaging company with cheaper and better-quality cake boxes and sandwich holders. A local magazine may introduce an independent to a graphic designer who can assist in all their branding and logo needs, and in turn introduce them to a web designer.
Real networking should be organic and grow, the more contacts you make the wider the opportunities for business spread. Trust and familiarity are still as important in commerce as they ever were in the ‘old school network’ of bygone years. The only difference now is we did not all attend the same school or that of our fathers before us. All individuals but linked by belonging to a shared interest group.
It’s too late for the shop on the High Street but it’s not too late for others.
Gillingham Chamber will be hosting a network evening at the Wine Bar on Thursday 13 September, 6 – 7pm. Come along and join us, meet the Chamber Committee members, meet other chamber members and meet other interested businesses.
We would to see you there.