Word Worker blog: this appeared first on Born Again Swindondian

Ask a non-business owner what marketing is and they’ll probably reply “advertising”. Or, if you’re lucky, “sponsorship and advertising”.

Of course, advertising and sponsorship can and do form part of a marketing plan. But one very important element of business marketing, particularly for business owners who are operating at a relatively local level, is business networking.

For the uninitiated, business networking involves getting together, often over breakfast or lunch, and – well – networking. There may or may not be presentations; there’s usually a chance to address the room briefly about your business, but pretty much that’s it.

So you may be wondering how this is marketing.  Is it standing around ‘selling’ to people? Well, no. In fact those who try to sell overtly aren’t welcome. If you eavesdrop on the chatter at a networking event you’ll hear people talking about their holidays, their families, their new grandchild (guilty as charged, Born Again Swindonian Angela!) and what they are doing for Christmas. They also talk about business – how it’s going, what their plans are – but in-your-face “please buy from me” is a no-no.

In essence, business networking is just like any other networking; it’s forming relationships with people so, should you need their services, or should you hear of someone who needs their services, you can refer them on, or engage them yourself. Equally, it is to be hoped that if they need your services, they will pick up the phone.

Think of it like social networking for businesses: FaceBook, only face-to-face and with a business slant.

There are many and varied business networking groups in Swindon. Most require an annual membership fee, others insist you attend each week, some are women only. A few are free, and you get to chat over a coffee.

One which I personally favour, and which I know is a big hit with our esteemed Born Again Swindonian, is Business Village.

It doesn’t charge a membership fee, just £10 pay-as-you-go. It’s weekly, on a Thursday at The Campanile, and the format varies but we always chat, network, and enjoy a breakfast. There are presentations, business problem solving sessions, and the chance to talk about your business and make and receive referrals.

We get a good number of attendees – up to 30 some weeks – and we do pass business among ourselves. I have a number of clients at Business Village and others who I have met through Business Village connections. Equally, I have been pleased to refer myself and others to business people I have met at Business Village. I use one of them to fix my IT and another to fix my insomnia (but that’s another story …)

Business networking as a form of marketing isn’t a magic wand. It’s been described as fishing not farming. The more often you go, the stronger the relationships you build, and the more business you will get. It’s a simple but effective formula.

Recently, Business Village had a bit of extra money in the pot. It is non profit-making, so the organisers were delighted to be able to donate £200 each to TWIGS, a community garden project, and to the youth organisation Inner Flame. Both excellent, home-grown Swindon charities.

So, all in all, we get something out of Business Village and we give something back. Job done!

Business Village meets each Thursday for breakfast and networking at The Campanile Hotel, on the Delta Business Park, Swindon, from 7.30-9am. The group charges no membership fee, just £10 per visit, and all are welcome.