Deciding on how best to market your company or what marketing tools will provide the best return on investment can, at times, seem like chopping through a jungle with a dinner knife. When I started my VA business I decided to try all the different marketing methods available to me.  Networking was the first topic to be picked from my marketing hat.

Being a networking virgin, I did what I always do when I haven’t a clue about a subject.  I turned to the Internet.  I soon realised that there was a whole industry out there making money out of the very thing I wanted to make money out of.

If I was ever to find the right networking event for my VA business I needed a plan. After much thought and research I had decided on the three criteria which needed to be met.  The first being that the networking group had to be good value for money.  I found that some groups would cost me thousands of pounds over a one year period.  I was happy to spend a couple of hundred.  The second was that the group wouldn’t be too needy, some groups were insisting on you appearing at every meeting, or sending someone in your place, plus the cost of a meal.  I just wanted to be able to attend events at my convenience and not be force-fed.  My final criteria was very important.  The group had to provide a supply of new people to meet each month, not just the same people who may, or may not, pass you leads from their business network.

The answer came to me in the shape of a networking group called Business Consort, they are also a training company, but ticked all my boxes.  I happily paid my yearly fee (I know, I should have gone for free the first time) and excitedly awaited the next event.

I stood outside the room nervously awaiting my turn to sign in.  My suit was slightly too tight, making me feel very uncomfortable and self-aware.  I just wanted to run away, but I couldn’t, as my stabbing high heels were chewing my feet like hungry crocodiles.  It hadn’t escaped my notice that everyone was stood up and it was highly unlikely I would be sitting down for the next couple of hours.  Oh joy, I thought.  Two hours later I was walking out of the same room with a fist full of business cards and some really good connections.  I was elated.  I now had the networking bug.

Skip forward two weeks.  I’m attending an event  hosted by Business Scene, only this time I have a suit that fits and some lower heeled shoes.  I don’t know if it was the better fitting clothes or just being in the right place at the right time, but a week or so later, I was doing business with 4 contacts I had met that evening.  I was also in the process of working with someone I had met at the first networking event.

So networking has a special place in my marketing tool kit, as it provides me with an excellent return on investment.

Please let me know your thoughts on networking.  Are you addicted to it like me or has it been a complete disaster.  What are your best tips for getting the most out of a networking event? What should I avoid at all costs?

I’m looking forward to seeing your comments.

If you would like more details on Business Consort or Business Scene here are their web addresses: