Make It Cheaper was in Bristol last week, hosting an informal seminar for local businesses. It was an opportunity for owners to pick up some money saving ideas, have their business model scrutinised by former BBC Dragon Doug Richard and, perhaps most importantly, talk to each other and exchange thoughts and ideas.
Among the attendees were three company owners, of whom one made wedding cakes, one sold wedding accessories and one made wedding dresses. They had never met - or even heard of each other - before, but could not fail to see that some mutual back scratching in the future could quite easily generate new customers for all three companies.
The coincidence in this instance was quite striking, but the point remains that a potentially lucrative (and simple to execute) opportunity came about because these owners were putting themselves in a situation where they were likely to meet like-minded people. It was a great example of the kind of reward that can come from networking.
Similarly, targeting a network - as opposed to becoming a member of one - is a strategy you can sometimes use to generate business. This was something we attempted earlier in the day by visiting Bristol's famous Gloucester Road, which is home to a higher density of independent traders than any other stretch of road in the UK. The community was primed for our arrival by a local radio station and by-and-large were very receptive to our presence. Retailers were particularly interested in reducing their chip-and-pin fees, while many cafes and coffee shops - where free Wi-Fi is one of the biggest draws to get bums on seats - took the opportunity to cut their broadband bills.
A quick calculation back at our London office revealed that we helped businesses in Gloucester Road save around £50,000 through switches made on the day - but we think that figure could quite conceivably double if the traders who switched tell other traders about our service. That would be a successful result for us, but perhaps more significantly the local economy would effectively be boosted by a £100,000 cash injection.
Therein lies another compelling reason for businesses to interconnect and talk to one another - you can help paint the bigger picture and encourage the local economy to thrive. If the local economy thrives, there's more chance that you will thrive too.
While we were on Gloucester Road we discovered that the businesses there have a further opportunity to help their local economy through a new city-wide initiative whereby people and businesses convert sterling into 'Bristol Pounds'. All the money spent in this way stays in the city, Bristol becomes a richer place and everyone who lives and trades there benefits. Over 1000 businesses have already signed up. How's that for networking?
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See how much you could cut off your utility bills by calling Make It Cheaper for a free consultation. It only takes minutes but could save your business thousands. Click here for more information.