Is there such a thing as free networking?
I often hear people saying that they will only use free networking rather than a paid membership group as they feel it is better value! Which I totally understand when you are a new start business and funds are limited. However, I have to say that once you factor in your time, your expense to get there and possibly parking costs, you have to admit that it’s not free.
As a small business owner and a start up your time is the most precious thing that you own! Trying to manage it effectively to produce your work and create sales leads can often be more like a juggling act. In all of the networking events that I tend, when I speak to people about where their customers come from, the majority will say word of mouth.
Which is great as that’s free advertising? Well Yes and No as you need to first get yourself out there to get that referral in the first place. If you don’t network either online or in person, then no-one will know who you are or what you do.
Free Networking v Paid Networking
So it then comes down to Free networking versus paid networking which can be online or in person. So is Free Networking actually free? Possibly no as free networking takes time out of your day and often with free networking the organisers wont know how many people are going to turn up. After all its free so there is no cancellation fee if someone decides to no longer attend.
There is often some hidden cost in “Free Networking” as you have to get there in the first place. If it’s not walking distance then you will need to drive or take public transport so that’s the first hidden cost to you. Once there the event normally will be for a duration of at least 2 hours so your going to want to have a drink of something. Most events that I have gone to have water available so you could save on the cost of a coffee and just drink water, but you will more than likely buy a drink of some kind, be it tea or coffee. Add to this your time out of the office and you can see how Free networking is not actually free.
Of course a paid membership has all those costs too but what more does it offer you? For me it is always about the relationships that you build when networking with the same group, it takes time to get to know people and to find out their strengths and establish who you can recommend to use their services. In return people will get to know you better, your strengths and skills so that they can recommend you and your business.
Paid Networking with Structure
At the 10-12 Business Club, we know that our members and visitors time is precious so we have designed a structured networking event of 2 hours that ensures it is all about business.
We start with 20 minutes of open networking where you can meet new visitors to the group, chat to regular members and build relationships. We then have the opportunity to share your business details with all of the group both in a 40 second pitch and printed materials such as business cards or flyers.
Our business section includes an informative presentation by a member or visitor followed by a Business breakout session on a business topic for that month. The 10-12 Business club have covered many topics from finance, to finding more customers or planning social media campaigns.
The highlight of the meeting ends with 3 x 1-2-1’s which gives you lots of opportunity to get your business in front of everyone at the meeting and possibly talk to most of the people at the meeting.
Is Free Networking worth it?
I have never found with free networking that you have time to build relationships as some people attending these events use it as a business card collecting event. Some people don’t even want to listen to what you have to say and are more than happy to tell you all about them, even when it is obvious that you have no synergy with each other. However they still want to collect your business card and add you to their mailing list or LinkedIn contacts!
One video that highlights the possible downsides of networking your business is this one which I am happy to say I have never met anyone quite as bad as this man. One thing I can guarantee you as a 10-12 Business Club member, you wont meet him at a meeting, as we don’t allow men! Now there’s one reason as a women business owner to try the 10-12 Business Club