Thursday, May 04, 2006

How to promote to Kent businesses: Part 1 - Networking

Over the last few years I’ve worked with many clients to help them target other local businesses in Kent. During this time a common set of key marketing tools has evolved for communicating to Kent businesses.
To help you promote your company, product or service to other businesses in Kent, this is the first part of a series of guides on Kent marketing, beginning with Networking.

A number of business networking opportunities exist within Kent. You may already be aware of BNI (Business Networking International) which has groups around the world that meet for a weekly networking breakfast and to pass referrals to members.
BNI Kent has a particularly strong representation with over 20 active BNI chapters. From personal experience Canterbury is a particularly good group with some very dedicated and committed members.
BNI can be a good source of new business, but a degree of commitment is required in order to get the most out of the cost of membership. Be warned – it can be hard to stay motivated on a cold dark winter’s morning! Many BNI members tend to be smaller single person businesses, which is fine if they represent your market.
Other networking meetings and lunches are organised by the Chambers of Commerce across Kent, the largest of which is the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce covering the areas of Ashford, Canterbury, Maidstone, Tonbridge and Malling. The Invicta chamber holds regular networking lunches, breakfasts and even speed networking events.
There are several specialist networking opportunities in Kent for specific industry sectors or interest groups:
  • Kent Wedding Network is a membership organisation that’s grown rapidly to help reputable wedding suppliers refer potential clients to each other at regular meetings, in a sector where there’s a great deal of crossover potential.
  • Several networking groups exist for women in business. For example Channel Chamber of Commerce in Shepway organise regular women’s networking events.
  • If you are a consultant or professional, possibly operating in the technology sector then the East Kent Branch of Ecademy, an online networking organisation, holds smaller regular meetings near Canterbury.
If you’re planning on attending any of these networking events, its worth spending some time preparing yourself and then making the effort to make as many new contacts as possible.
Go armed with plenty of business cards and a quick pitch about what you do. Try and meet as many people at the event as possible. If you find networking difficult, then you can never go wrong by starting with some friendly questions about the other person’s business, then bring the conversation back to what you do.
Even if the contacts you make don’t seem immediately of use stick with it, because you never when networking can pay real dividends.
If you’d like to comment on this post, share your experiences of networking or suggest other Kent networking events, then add your comments below or email josh@whitenmarketing.co.uk.
Next up it’s Public Relations in Kent
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