The room was full of people in stern suits. Even the women. Everyone seemed to know each other. I’d been up since 5am and didn’t feel ready to ‘network’, yet here I was, in a BNI meeting, with thirty people I didn’t know. I clutched my cold cup of tea tighter and tried to look busy on my phone…
That was a decade ago, and I still hate ‘networking’.
The obligatory “what do you do?” leaves me cold. And trying to find the right networking group or organisation is hard. They’re either full of suits and egos, or they’re too fluffy, with members who just come to chat, and don’t seem to want to grow their businesses.
Yet every start-up book or business success guide tells you that networking is vital.
So, what’s the answer?
Do networking associations and clubs actually work for estate agents?
I asked some of our Firewave group members the same question, and here’s what they said:
“We are members of the local business association and it has defiantly got our name out there and has made us the agent to ask advice. We have also had a number of instructions from it. It’s the Heswall & District Business Association, which I also happen to be chairman of. Value in terms of fees would be guesstimated at £10k.”
Steve Atherton, Hunters, Wirral
Adam McHenry agrees that networking has been good for his business:
“£35 -38k in sales Fees and three managed instructions so far from our BNI chapter.”
Adam McHenry, Cadman Homes, Rugby
Claire Roberts is a long-time advocate of BNI
“BNI for almost 5 years – get a lot of business from it, not always the right business!! A local one called Elite Business Academy which is a mix of networking and coaching and is quite good and had business from, couple of other smaller local ones too which are good but not quite as effective!!”
Claire Roberts, Rutley Clark Unique Homes, Morley
But not all agents have had a good experience from networking:
“I’ve been to a few – never made me a penny – like some pyramid kind of thing – ‘you buy off me and I will buy off you’ – not my cup of tea! Must just be my local BNI. It was all social media experts and pushy ‘join as we can only have one from each sector’ even though they had 5 social media consultants.”
Andy Keogh, Pointons, Bedworth
Recent start-up, Gemma, is considering a different approach:
“I’m seriously considering starting my own (not to make money, just to meet people!)”
Gemma Atkinson, Flying Keys, Nottingham
I’m with Gemma here….
Why not start your own?
In this post, I explain how I run a business club in Windermere, where AshdownJones is based. To date, we have around 300 business owners in the club. Each one is a micro-business – some solo operators, a few partnerships and several who run small teams, like shop and hotel owners.
We meet monthly, and brainstorm their business challenges. There’s a focus on low-cost and no-cost marketing, and some really innovative ideas and creative alliances always emerge.
On average, we’ve had an instruction a year directly from the club. Doesn’t sound much, does it? But those instructions have been worth around £40,000. And the social proof of those boards and sale successes have probably led to at least £100,000 of additional instructions.
Plus, the indirect benefits of having the club have been huge. Including:
- Invited to value a £2.5m home that may be coming to market in the next year
- Loaned a boat worth £150,000 for a lifestyle movie
- A ready audience for our ‘Lockdown Lessons’ and our annual ’12 Days of Christmas’ campaign
And much more, including a group of fantastic friends who love to support me and my business.
When it comes to the contentious topic of networking, opinions and experience vary hugely. Here are my takeaways:
- Networking for estate agents tends to work best for low- to mid-priced properties
- It can take months – even years – to reap the benefit
- It’s more likely as an estate agent you’ll give referrals than receive them
- You need to have a strong vision of the client you want to attract, and communicate it clearly to the group
- Becoming part of the leadership team of your group will earn you better referrals, but the additional work and responsibilities may not be worth the trade-off
Let’s ditch the word ‘networking’
I don’t like the term ‘networking’. It sounds cold, impersonal and hard work. I prefer ‘community building’. Because done right, that’s exactly what it is.
Community building is a very important part of our marketing strategy. (You can read about our top 4 sources of high value valuations here.) It’s not easy, and the results don’t come fast, but if you pay enough attention to it, community building is a sustainable and profitable marketing activity and you will reap the benefits for years to come.
Community building is just one of the marketing strategies we teach our Firewave clients for free, to ensure they get the biggest return on their time spent on marketing.
But we only work with one agent per area.
If you’d like to find out if your area is available, just go to www.fire-wave.co.uk/start and we’ll check for you. If it is, we can have a chat to see if you and Firewave are the right fit.
PS here’s a list of the top national networking clubs to check out for yourself: