Business networking is hard work. You can be up with the larks, in breakfast meetings before 7 am, or out with the owls, so that you can fit your days’ work in the middle.

It can be costly; some groups require joining fees, annual membership, and weekly meeting payments. Even if you only attend a pay as you go group the costs over a year can be high.

It’s defined as “the process of establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with other business people and potential clients/customers.” You get the opportunity to tell others about your business and learn about theirs.

Business networking is marketing. Marketing is an expense. With any expense your aim is to get the best return on your investment (ROI).

So, how can you best achieve this?

You need to regularly meet and communicate. There are many, many networking groups. It would be easy to spread yourself too thin by attending too many different groups. It will also drain your time and money. Research the ones you’re attracted to before you visit and then go along several times before you decide to join or become a regular member.

Once you have chosen your networking group(s), you need to attend on a regular basis to build and maintain your business relationships. Your reputation takes a hit if you are regularly absent and others may doubt your commitment or start to think you’re unreliable.

Regular attendance also helps you grow your business by getting referrals from those present. If absent you may be forgotten. Turning up to meetings helps you stay present in people’s minds.

You also have an obligation to your group. It’s not all about you. Remember networking is a “mutually beneficial” relationship. You can listen to how people are developing their businesses. You will stay current and be able to help them resolve problems as they occur.

Business networking has indirect benefits that may be trickier to measure than receiving direct work, these will provide long term benefits to help you develop yourself and your business. You’ll share your knowledge and experience and gain valuable advice from others. And, without even realising, you’ll receive a boost to your confidence by regularly meeting new people and you may form new friendships.

So, whether lark or owl, remember to fly regularly and make the most of your networking!