I don't know about you but I find it difficult to advertise. I never really know how many people see the ad in the paper or read a leaflet through the door. If the responses I get from the "where did you hear about me?" question it's not many. I've found it a bit of a gamble at best.
So I started networking. I was invited to the BNI, BoB, 4Networking, the BGG and the LBN. I know...so many TLAs! They all have a similar format but vary in price and what time of day they meet. BNI is a great group but wasn't for me. A bit expensive and far too early. There's really only one 6.30 in a day... I did join 4Networking, BGG and LBN though.
BGG meets on a Friday morning at a fairly civilised 7.45. We have breakfast, talk about ourselves for a minute each, listen to a 10 minute talk from one member (which is always really interesting) and pass referrals between members. This is the most supportive of the groups I'm in. You really get the sense that everyone is looking out for you and will do all they can to help.
LBN is an evening group and I'm Chairman (for the next 6 months at least). The format is fairly similar with a 1 minute round, a 10 minute slot and referrals. It's a different mix of businesses at this one though so you get to talk to a wider variety of potential customers. This is the most relaxed group I've ever been to. Even with the laid back atmosphere we still get plenty of business from it with an average of around 10 referrals being passed each week.
4Networking is a bit different in that there are no referrals. It's all about building relationships with people, making friendships and growing trust. As a passport member you can also visit any club in the country meaning you can throw your net a bit wider and network up to 4 times a week if you have the time! It's a bit more of a slow burner but this is the most fun group I'm in and the passport makes it a bit more varied.
I would really recommend networking as a cost effective method of promoting a new business. It really is a good way of getting your name known to as many people as possible. Don't expect big things in your first week, but put in the time and it'll be worth it.