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This is NOT about business card exchanges. We're talking networking meetings that you set up yourself.
Networking meetings are good promotional settings for small businesses. A networking meeting puts the focus on the small businesses that serve a community. They can serve both the neighborhood and the surrounding area or region.
Every small business needs more clients and customers. Therapists and small farms serve the local community. Florists and caterers and salons reach out beyond their area to attract more customers.
Networking meetings are easy to set up and operate. Consider doing a networking meeting yourself to increase awareness, promote your business, and get more referrals.
Example: Frank operates a fitness studio. Exercise machines and free weights keep clients busy, and Frank offers personal training. To increase his client base and get more referrals, he decided to hold networking meetings. But he did not use the networking name. He put the word out on social media that free demonstrations would be held in the evenings of the first Tuesday of each month. He envisioned the meeting as an open house for other business owners, fitness enthusiasts, corporate desk people, and the general public. He got a local caterer to furnish snacks, a local student band to play a short program, and Frank gave a brief talk about fitness programs especially geared toward people with weight problems, and he answered all the questions. He did not try to sell anything or sign up people for his fitness programs. The monthly open houses are fun and informational, and they have become a go-to destination every month. Franks sees new faces joining his operation.
Example: Sandra is a marketing consultant. She was dissatisfied with the handful of business networking groups in her area. So she decided to start one of her own. She spoke with a local restaurant that had a large meeting room. The room was never used in the mornings, so the restaurant owner agreed to let Sandra hold networking meetings there once each month starting at 7 a.m. People arrive, spend a half-hour milling around, talking with each other, and making new contacts. Sandra arranges for a special speaker for each meeting who discusses a subject of general interest--subjects like social media, mortgages and reverse mortgages, lease negotiations, and the like. There is a $20 charge, but it includes a continental breakfast furnished by the restaurant. Sandra puts the word out on her website and Facebook page. She also has a MeetUp.com site--free for the asking. Her networking sessions have become so popular she is thinking of holding a second one each month in another town. Her marketing consulting business is expanding.
The key to success with networking meetings seems to be the attraction of business people getting together--with a little food, informative speakers, maybe some music.
Networking meetings are NOT business card exchanges. Networking meetings bring together people with similar interests and problems.