NETWORKING: CURIOSITY DID NOT KILL THE CAT

Against all the odds, they’ve let me write another feature! Seriously though, thank you for all the kind messages I received after the first one and the ideas for future topics; much appreciated – my network is a great network. 

Which subtly brings me to this month’s topic: NETWORKING. 

Networking, in some people’s eyes, conjures up dour connotations of a room full of suited men all trying to sell, sell, sell. Thankfully, as the world of work has evolved, so has the many variants of networking groups available and who they are supporting. 

So what is networking? Well, the internet describes it as: ‘the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.’

Why do we need to network? In Chichester us self-employed folk are over 15,000 in number, 20% of the “economically active” population and twice the national average.

So you are beginning to see why networking might be a pretty important and valuable thing here in Chichester especially if we want our businesses to be a success. 

This past month I’ve contacted my networks via social media and email to ask for comments on their experiences of networking:

What are the lows? Not being listened to or feeling judged’; ‘looking to talk to others while still in conversation’; ‘having a business card thrust at you without asking any questions first’; ‘like a bad, awkward date!’

What are the highs? ‘Recognising mutual interest and arranging to meet to discuss further’; ‘hearing that my business has been recommended’; ‘making friends’; ‘hearing about a service I didn’t know existed’. ‘Being part of a community’; ‘collaborating with someone I didn’t see as an obvious fit on paper – face to face opened up possibilities and ideas’.

Emily Penny, brand strategist of becolourful, sums up the value of networking: ‘You just never know what might come from conversations with interesting, diverse groups of people. Collaborations can be very rewarding. And if you work for yourself, just getting out there and bouncing ideas with other professionals can help you see business issues in perspective, and keep you in good mental health.’

For me, personally, the networking meetups that insist on an “elevator pitch” do nothing to support those that are not natural presenters or feel under the spotlight when facing a group of peers; you’re never going to present your best self no matter how polished your one-liner might be. 

I often hear people say that they are no good at networking as they are quite introverted, my response to that is that they haven’t found the right network yet.  The community or tribe that you surround yourself with should make this a non-issue, whether this means that you can contribute remotely or in smaller, face to face, groups. Make it work for you – you’re not alone in feeling the overwhelm that sometimes comes with larger groups.

If this has whetted your appetite to consider giving networking locally a whirl, here are three that I can highly recommend that have members from a wide range of sectors:

Last Friday Club – I set this up over 3 years ago with my friend Emily Perry, after finding no local networks that focused on the specific needs of freelancers/solo entrepreneurs in the city.  For me, it was about building a team (a network) around me and to understand more about running my own business and being able to support others in running theirs. 

Through a crossover of members, I quickly discovered Design Collective Chichester, this has also been going for 3+ years and was founded by Alys Bryan and Julia Grant and brings together some of the finest creative design talent in the local area.  

After a period of a couple of years running my business and network, I found I wasn’t investing in my own marketing enough, so I reflected on this and found The Collective, founded by Abby Smith and Helen Hoile, could indeed be my “tribe”.  They’ve just celebrated their first year and are expanding into Southsea too.

If you want to grow your business online and increase awareness, then you need to start connecting more offline, Instagram isn’t your marketing team – put a face to your brand, and let your personality shine through. People want connection, not information.

My closing advice is to never look at networking as “what’s in it for me”, think of yourself as part of a business community; you can be the eyes and ears of all that you are connected to. 

Be an introducer – be a source of knowledge for others; be generous with time and expertise and you’ll not go far wrong. This is the kind of connection that people remember and you’ll certainly reap the benefits. 

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Other notable business networks in Chichester include: First Friday Network and Chichester Chamber of Commerceboth well worth a look. 

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If you have any comments or questions about this article or about my business networking group, please email me at: [email protected]

Debbie is amazing, and her workshop has helped our business grow. She is kind, friendly and really down to earth can’t wait to work with her again in the future! Along with this the space [at Rume2] was fantastic for individuals or to use as a group. Its clean, bright and feels like a great place to get creative!

Grace AllenRetailer: Timothy Roe Fine JewelleryTimothy Roe Fine Jewellery

The best money I have ever spent within my business – Salone Events. Debbie’s tips were so useful and ones that could be implemented immediately. Since making one very very very simple change, I have had 7 leads through 1 post!!! Highly recommend. And bonus – She is the most lovely person out there!!!

Bernadette PalomboBusiness OwnerSalone Events

I recently attended a Social Media Workshop for small businesses and I am so glad I did. Not only was it delivered with lots of enthusiasm by Debbie who clearly knows her stuff, but it gave me great tips to use moving forward and gave me the kick up the behind I needed to get a little more consistent with my social media. I would definitely recommend this session.

Claire SkaptasonOwner: O & O Trainer CoachO & O Trainer Coach

I attended a social media master class, which I would highly recommend to anyone/small business. Whether you know very little (like me) or are more experienced you can’t fail to take away some great tips from this very informative session, delivered by the very welcoming and engaging Debbie.

Eloise JohnsonOwner: Well Minds TrainingWell Minds Training

Debbie Ford is an inspiration & her Social Media workshop at Rume2 last week gave me loads of new ideas & a fresh perspective. Was really refreshing being amongst other business owners, all of us from different backgrounds, but everyone really friendly & supportive.

Katy MasonOwnerMono Motorcycles

Debbie is absolutely brilliant! So informative and has given me a new lease of confidence when it comes to social media. Debbie taught us all so much in such a relaxed manner and made a group of strangers feel like a group of friends within seconds! I cannot recommend her enough!

Sonya MatharuMortgage AdvisorSonya Matharu

I attended the social media masterclass with Debbie and I took away so many top tips and useful information. It was pitched at a level which meant if you were a total beginner or more experienced you would have walked away with much more knowledge that you had when you went in the room. Very useful and I’d highly recommend it to support your social channels for your business – thanks Debbie!

Gayle TongOwner: Enrichment CoachingEnrichment Coaching

I am very new to social media and literally learning on the hoof! Debbie delivered an extremely informative social media presentation crammed with useful tips and links in a very relaxed and friendly style – lots of laughs too, no question too silly, and no chance of nodding off! Thank you! I will be in touch!

Ella PopeBusiness OwnerOakwood Southdowns

Thanks so much for this morning’s session. Very useful! and packed with brilliant information I had no idea about.

Jane BaggottPersonal and Leadership CoachVista Development Consultancy

I attended the social media for small businesses course you ran today with the Chichester Bid – and it was fantastic! The atmosphere was relaxed but interested, you were informative and happy to answer any questions that came your way. All of the tips you suggested looked attainable and the steps came from a place of common sense. Thank you!

Ellie BrownRetailer: North OpticiansNorth Opticians

Can’t thank you enough for a great workshop and I’ve certainly come out of it with a clearer understanding and mind-set!

AlexRetailer: Hennings Wine MerchantHennings Wine Merchants

Debbie was fantastic… I struggle with social media (I only joined Facebook when I started my business a few months ago). Debbie spotted things that I could change quickly and easily as well as guiding me to streamlining my process for all platforms. She is incredibly supportive and I highly recommend her.

Anna HaskellOwner: South Coast MermaidsSouth Coast Mermaids

We trust Debbie to manage all our social channels for our web design and digital marketing agency. Debbie really understands how to get the most out of social media for our business. She gets that it’s all about engagement and authenticity, not just ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. Never generic or dull, our social feeds have never been so useful, interesting and consistent. Highly recommended!

Ben DavisCEO & co-founderPallant Digital

Debbie really knows her stuff, and has great energy and ideas. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending her to anyone needing some social savvy!

Kay MawerOwner: ClothkitsClothkits

Thank you so much for the course, I found it eye opening and extremely informative.

Sophie WilsonInterior DesignerSieMatic Kitchens

Thank you to Debbie for coaching me with my digital media, Debbie has a wonderful way of thinking, so many brilliant ideas for content. Anyone that is involved with social media must have Debbie as a coach! Thank you  … and when you start seeing tangible results it’s such a good feeling!

Emma ShepherdMarketing: CreationsCreations

Recently attended a course, run by Debbie, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It gave me the kick to start using Instagram (which is the social media channel I was lacking in). Debbie explained everything in a no-nonsense way, that even I could understand. Very much recommend her course.

Julia BrittenOwner: JBS Print & DesignJBS Print & Design

Super helpful session with Debbie this morning, learnt some top tips which I have taken on board and already putting into practise. A calm and clear teacher with a friendly manner, with the vibe that no question too silly to ask. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending her sessions. Thanks again Debbie.

Anna ChristianMarketing: Hall HunterHall Hunter

I would thoroughly recommend Debbie. I joined one of her social media sessions. I thought she pitched it really well – giving us lots of useful and practical advice whilst creating a forum to ask those questions you’ve always wanted to ask! I came away with a renewed confidence in my approach to social media for business.

Sara WatkinsOwner: Hopscotch DesignHopscotch Design

I attended a social media course run by Debbie.
It was very interesting and I learnt a lot to use for the future in my role at work.
would recommend

Annie FreemanRetail assistant; St Wilfrid’s Hospice Shop, Chichester

Debbie came and gave a very inspiring talk about Social Media to our networking meeting for The Selsey Business Partnership. She had a wonderful way of engaging with everyone in the room, raising lots of discussion and advised on ways to improve and help with business Social Media – everyone in the room found the tips very helpful whether or not they were regular social media users – highly recommend if you are looking for help with your business or as a speaker for your group.

Tracey GlitheroLocal Life Magazine - Selsey Business Partnership

Thank you for a very informative 121 session on email marketing!

Emma Shepherd

Had a great day at Boston Tea Party Chichester with Debbie from The Chichester Social looking at how we use social media for our business, and the best tips to improve our social media presence – highly recommended 👍

Becky Benford-BlowsDirector: AFVSAdvice for the Voluntary Sector CIC

For any business that needs a bit of Social Marketing Savvy, do get in touch with Debbie at The Chichester Social. She’s ace, and is most passionate about our local independents and entrepreneurs!

Draper’s YardMicro and independent businesses set around a quirky courtyardDraper’s Yard

Had a brilliant catch up and strategy session with Debbie from The Chichester Social. She reminded me that this time last year, South Coast Mermaids didn’t exist and encouraged me to reflect on the progress I have made! Thank you Debbie!

South Coast MermaidsOwner: Anna HaskellSouth Coast Mermaids

Debbie gave a very interesting and inspiring talk to the Selsey Business Partnership members last week. She remembered everybody’s name and their type of business and brought that into the talk, which made it very personal to everybody there. many thanks Debbie, Sue and Tom Celebration Balloons 4 You

Sue MortimerOwner: Celebration Balloons 4 YouCelebration Balloons 4 You

Debbie is a mine of knowledge. Your talk has given me a lot if ideas and inspiration as to the direction I want my business to go in.
Thank you

Shaun RainbowOwner: Oriel WindowsOriel Windows