Alternative networkingLast time I wrote about networking, I covered all the conventional routes which you can refresh yourself with here. I also thought – given that networking, particularly for professional services businesses, can be your single most powerful marketing tool – it might be worth supplementing it with some more alternative networking tips.

Engineer that ‘chance’ meeting
Let me explain: I was talking to a small business owner the other day who had managed to ‘bump’ into some key contacts for a couple of days running, simply by walking against the flow of commuters who stream over London Bridge every rush hour. Sounds unlikely doesn’t it? But, networking during your commute can be very effective. Another business owner I heard of often walks the entire length of his train on the daily commute and usually ‘bumps’ into a contact that she hasn’t seen for a while (probably more effective on the homeward bound leg than the bleary eyed, morning commute).

Set up your own networking group
Another idea is not only to tap into existing industry forums but set up a small networking group of your own for clients and potential clients. Whether your target is public relations people working in accountancy, procurement specialists in the legal profession, or HR professionals in banking, they will value the opportunity of meeting other like-minded people. The key is to make sure the group is well targeted.

You could even approach one of your clients to ‘sponsor’ each session by providing a room and some drinks. If you can find a speaker to talk about some burning issues, then all the better in terms of adding another attraction for getting people along. You’re not there to do a hard sell but just by facilitating such an event on a quarterly basis say, you can make some cracking contacts and reinforce people’s perceptions of your expertise in your industry.

Go back to school
Networking in your local area often focuses around joining local business groups. Again all good practice but what about thinking more laterally? If you’re prepared to give up a little free time why not be a governor at your local school (the school run can also be a great opportunity to network potential clients too)? Offer your advisory services to a local charity? It’s the chance to put something back in to society while also helping your business. If you’ve always wanted to act, join the local amateur dramatics society – chances are you’ll meet potential business contacts there. Same goes for other local clubs and societies. And even if you don’t, you’ll benefit from a new hobby!

If you can meet people outside their usual business channels they can be far more receptive than they might be at an industry event, particularly if you find that most networking events you go to seem to have suppliers heavily outnumbering potential buyers.