Building Coffee and Connect

It is Coffee and Connect’s sixth birthday in May. Six years ago a dozen of us got together for a coffee and a chat. Today @65 local businesses attend our meetings each month and I am delighted to say Coffee and Connect is thriving.

I thought it might be helpful to analyse how I have built Coffee and Connect as in many ways establishing & growing Coffee and Connect has been like building a business.

 

Consistent Format

As you will be aware there are many different networking groups, each with their own format. I started Coffee and Connect with a clear idea of the format that I thought would work best and over the first year I experimented with a few variations. However once I had found the optimum format I stuck with it. This consistency is important – so that everyone knows what to expect at a Coffee and Connect meeting.

Tip – if your product/service works then stick with it.

 

Attention to Detail

One of the things I obsess about is furniture layout and how it affects the flow of the meeting room – it really does make a difference! In fact I always allow a good hour to set up the room layout before each meeting and make sure everything is in exactly the right place. If we are in a new room I allow extra time for rehearsing the “meet and greet” area. This in-depth preparation is critical to ensure the meetings run smoothly.

Tip – focus on the detail and the “behind-the-scenes” activity of your business – this can make the difference between success & failure.

 

Building a Quality Mailing List

I am always more focussed on Quality rather than Quantity and if you receive a Coffee and Connect e-mail from me then we have either met, spoken on the phone or had an e-mail conversation.  This ensures that people who receive my mailings are actually interested in them.

Tip – take time to find people for whom your product/service is relevant when building your mailing list – then they are more likely to be interested in what you have to say.

 

Sharing Knowledge and Experience

The sharing of knowledge and experience is the foundation of successful networking – we are all experts in our own area – so share that expertise. My specialities are Sales & Marketing (31 years experience) and running my own business (18 years) so that is what I write about in my e-mails and blog posts.

Tip – demonstrate your knowledge and expertise – it gives people confidence.

 

Marketing

I do lots of marketing because it is no good having a great networking group (or product/service) if you don’t tell people about it!

So the usual disclaimer here i.e. that I publish four local magazines, however I have been running adverts for Coffee and Connect in my own magazines for several years now and it works!  In fact I had an enquiry in this morning (as I wrote this newsletter) from someone who had seen my Coffee and Connect advert in their latest issue.

I have a website with a great visual image – this is deliberate – you want to be memorable and it also gives all the practical details about how the meetings work.

I also have postcards that I give out, a pull-up banner, I use Twitter, I always mention Coffee and Connect when I meet new people etc….

Tip – if you have a great product / offer a fabulous service – you need to tell people!

  

Planning & Implementation

Every year I sit down and plan for the next twelve months and Coffee and Connect has been an integral part of this planning process for the past six years. I decide what I want to do (e.g. update my website) and then break each project down into stages, working out how long each stage will take and then allocate specific weeks on my Year Planner to work on each stage. I also set up reminders on my CRM system so that I get e-mails reminding me to get things done!

Tip – the most important aspect of any plan is implementation         

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