Should tradespeople attend networking groups?

It really depends on whether you could cope with more work – now and in the future. Very few tradespeople have the luxury of never needing to promote themselves.

From a practical point of view, however, if you don’t market yourself because you believe you have a loyal customer base, this confidence could easily be shattered. Older customers will not always be around, it’s a fact of life. Younger clients may have a longer lifespan ahead, but their loyalty may not be as strong as people from a different generation. In any business, it’s never wise to put your eggs in one basket.

Networking may seem a waste of time to some tradespeople, but it depends on your mindset. It’s never a waste of time adding to your list of professional contacts, and whilst mixing with other businesspeople can open doors to corporate opportunities, all other attendees are just people too. People who may want to extend their home, repave their driveway, replace their bathroom suite, etc. at some point. If you see networking as simply mixing with a roomful of people who could either use you or refer you, you won’t think it a waste of a few hours.

Because tradespeople rely on the ‘know, like, trust’ principle, perhaps more than other industries, it’s a good idea to be around new prospects in person. Networking is ideal for this, as they’d expect you to promote your services in a meeting…it’s more effective than standing on the street with a handful of flyers.

Back to the corporate deals. You may feel a large project on a public building, for example, would be out of your league if you’re a one-man-band, but the beauty of networking is that it invites collaboration. If you only stick to one kind of audience and a certain kind of project throughout your working life, that’s all you’ll ever attract. How do you grow as a business if that’s the case?

Corporate work can be more lucrative than business to consumer jobs; corporate projects tend to be longer-lasting, and if you exceed expectations as the job ends, you’ll be first in the queue when they’re pulling together contractors for the next.

The beauty of a networking meeting is that you never know how it will go or who will turn up. You may go to a couple of meetings and write the whole idea off because nothing comes from it. Professional networkers would say that this is the wrong attitude to have – networking is a skill that is honed over time, and it may take a while before you see a return - but this is normal. Your fellow attendees are not going to get to know you if you only go to one meeting, even if they like you – and they certainly won’t think you trustworthy. You’ll never earn the ‘know, like, trust’ badge that way.

Networking is also a two-way street. Whilst you’re waiting to be referred, so will the others in your group. If you’re able to put work their way, they’ll be much more inclined to do the same for you.

Remember, it’s never about the people in the room when you’re at a networking meeting. It’s about the people they know. That could equal a lot of people, people you may not otherwise access, all for a couple of hours once a week/fortnight/month with people you will likely come to see as friends.

The people that get the most from networking are those who have the right attitude when they join a group. Give, as well as take, referrals and opportunities, commit to regularly attending, and show the room who you are as a person. Do this, and networking will work for you.

Currently, many meetings are being held online, due to the pandemic. Whilst online networking is a different experience, it’s still as useful to your business.