Networking can be a hugely important element of promotion for a small business. There are many networking groups operating all over the country – some meet for breakfast, some have restrictive membership, some are lunch clubs, and others meet socially in the evening. The networks people prefer will be different depending on where they are coming from in relation to their work background.
Many small business owners invest a huge amount of time in ‘networking’, for example on Facebook and Twitter. Some of this is essential, but it is important that you are clear about what you hope to gain from networking and what each network you attend delivers for you.
Many rural businesses involve meeting with people, virtually or in person, which can alleviate feelings of isolation. Some, particularly those based at home, can increase feelings of rural isolation. It is important to recognise that connecting with other people, either formally or informally, is important.
Networking does not have to be stuffy and entirely business-focused. Great friendships are frequently formed through networking. Recognise your need and plan your networks to meet it. You may need to go to a few networking meetings to discover what style suits you best.
So while networking has been included as an element of promotion, it serves much broader needs than that. This is illustrated with an example from South West England, The Cheese Gig.