Which networking groups in Yorkshire are best for new business leads?

Posted by Rob Kendal on 09-Nov-2015 16:30:00

Ahh it's a very leading question isn't it? There are many ways to find and generation new business leads and lots of questions to ask, but business networking is a fantastic way to spend some face to face time with your potential customers. After all the old axiom of 'people buy from people' still holds true today.

However, the answer to the question, 'which Yorkshire business networking group is best?' is, in truth, really more about which networking group is best for you. 

We'll take an informative, objective look at some of the most popular business networking groups in Yorkshire including BNI, 4Networking, Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, and The Yorkshire Mafia. We'll see what they're about, how they work, what costs are involved, and what you can hope to get out of them. 

Image showing which business networking groups in Yorkshire are best for business leads

Before we start: a primer to getting the best from networking...

Whatever path to business networking you choose to follow, try to remember these points to ensure you maximise your ROI, generate some great business leads, and ultimately get the best from your group(s):

  • Price doesn't reflect quality! Some groups are free, some cost £1000's per year, neither end of the joining scale guarantees success nor indicates that one group is better or worse.
  • You get what you give. If you regularly attend meetings and groups but don't get involved with other members, listen to their needs and try to give more than you take, it'll take you much longer to see results.
  • Business networking is a long-term plan. The harsh reality is that networking, just about any networking, is an exercise in building trust and showing your expertise and value, all of which take time to establish. Sure, you might get some quick wins from your first few meetings, but ultimately to be successful at generating business leads and sales from any networking group means to attend regularly, frequently, and offer something more than just the same sales pitch time and again.

BNI - Business Networking International

As the name suggests, BNI is a global networking organisation that boasts an impressive 175,000 members attending over 7000 meetings each week across the world. There are 13,000 members in the UK alone.

business networking group BNI

BNI is a bit different from the more traditional networking approaches of other groups. It can be best thought of as a business referral group where each member looks to promote a positive, supportive environment to help the growth and development of member businesses by swapping quality business referrals. 

Only one representative from each trade or profession is allowed to join any one BNI group. This means you can effectively gain the edge over your competition in the area and that 100% new business that aligns with your company's activities is passed directly to you, 

From BNI's very own website: 

"BNI Members meet weekly with the prime intention of passing each other opportunities for new business through 'word of mouth referrals'. This is the most cost-effective form of advertising possible. Being a member of Business Network Int'l (BNI) is like having sales people working for you every day who market your product or services."

How does it work?

At its core, BNI is a closed referral group. Prospective members are either invited in by existing members or by contacting the specific group's leader, or area leader.

Members meet on a weekly basis and look to help each other's business grow by passing quality 'word of mouth' referrals and making introductions into businesses where other members might want to 

This is further supplemented by closely-related, symbiotic businesses forming 'power teams' that work even more closely together to accelerate their growth. Examples of this might be a power team comprised of solicitors, accountants, and mortgage advisors whose fields all align to offer a complete service to home-buyers.

How much does it cost?

BNI is arguably one of the most expensive networking organisations that you can join. With a joining fee sitting somewhere around £600 for the first year (with a reduction for each following year) and an average of £10 per meeting (to cover food and room hire costs), you can find yourself investing close to £1000 per year for membership.

But don't let the high membership figures scare you off, BNI can work really well for just about any business. It requires a high-level of commitment in order to make it work for you, but there is an average 'seat value' attached to each membership of anywhere from £20,000 to £50,000 depending on business type.

This means that should you wish to join you could be earning up to £50,000 in revenue directly as a result of your networking efforts!

How can I find out more?

You can find out more about BNI and even visit a meeting using the following:


Referring to itself as 'relaxed, fun, and friendly', 4Networking is one of the largest UK networking groups with over 50,000 members across 5000 meetings locally, regionally, and nationally. 4Networking creates a balance between the business and social sides of networking and offers a unique meeting format at each event.

business leads from 4Networking

As well as being able to meet new businesses and expand your contact network as you'd expect, 4Networking offers the option to join the management team in any group thus taking advantage of cheaper membership options and group insights to help grow your 

How does it work?

Typically, 4Networking groups meet twice a month, once every 2 weeks. Each meeting is well structured and lasts about 2 hours.

Meetings have a unique format that works well to blend the business and social side of things:

  1. Pre-meeting open networking
  2. 40 second round (your elevator pitch)
  3. 4Sight section (this is an insightful speaking slot lasting 25 minutes)
  4. Three, 10 minute one on one meetings with people you choose
  5. Close and more open networking

The one to one meeting format is a real differentiator, allowing you to have a focussed mini-appointment with someone you choose. Almost like a round of business speed dating!

How much does it cost?

4Networking is quite cost effective and offers much larger bang-for-buck compared to similar groups because of its widespread reach and flexibility.

Typically, it costs around £200 to join for the first time for roughly a year's worth of networking. Each subsequent year is roughly £365. This allows you to attend any meeting, any time, any place, and network just about every day of the week. Each meeting you attend costs £10 to cover food and room hire.

You can also choose to pay monthly, 6-monthly, or quarterly if you wish, to help work with your cashflow (we have more cashflow tips here) and avoid single, lump-sum payments.

Bonus: 4Networking boasts a really generous referral scheme whereby you can earn free days membership for each new person you invite to a meeting who goes on to join. This is something you are likely to do as a matter of course if a networking group or event works well for you, naturally you want to spread the news; this way, you also get a little reward at the same time.

How can I find out more?

To read more about 4Networking, or book yourself into a friendly meeting near you then check out the following:

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce

The West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce group consists of three local Chambers of Commerce plus several different organisations that aim to improve business performance across the Yorkshire region.

Chamber of Commerce website screenshot

The Chamber of Commerce isn't strictly a networking group, rather it is a connected business support network that provides a range of high quality professional services to assist owners in running their business effectively and efficiently. Their aim is to provide support when and where businesses need it.

How does it work?

The Chamber of Commerce offers a wide range of benefits, support and advice, and networking events as part of its membership. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Networking events to promote your business -  meet potential clients and promote your business through, networking events, international business development, online directories, and advertising opportunities.
  • Support services - get your everyday business questions answered by a skilled team and help tackle more challenging business issues.
  • Business Protection - free legal helplines and employment advice services. 
  • Money Savings - deals on business essentials from private healthcare and debt recovery services, through to motoring and banking. 

How much does it cost?

Prices vary depending on business size (the more employees, the higher the fees), but start from £270 per year.

However, if you're a new business (less than 12 months trading) there is a special introductory rate of £200.

You can pay your subscription in one payment or via monthly direct debit.  Subscription rates are for a twelve month period and are renewed on the anniversary of the initial joining date.

How can I find out more?

You can find our more about the Chamber of Commerce in Yorkshire from the following links:

Yorkshire Mafia

The Yorkshire Mafia is a business membership organisation based in Yorkshire, founded in late 2008.

Website screenshot of Yorkshire Mafia business networking group

It has been featured in the national press and combines the best of business membership with the advantages of social networking. 

From their website: 

"The Yorkshire Mafia is a broad cross-section of our region’s business community Our members reflect Yorkshire’s pride, its energy, drive and refusal to be beaten by adversity. Most members are born and bred in Yorkshire, but some have moved to the county to find their fortune."

How does it work?

Similar to the Chamber of Commerce, The Yorkshire Mafia is a blend of business support services, networking events, meet-ups and conferences, as well as training courses to gain valuable business skills in areas such as marketing and social media to name a few.

Members are vetted before being allowed into their unique forum for interaction other, like-minded industries and business representatives who all share an interest in the advancement of the Yorkshire region

For their website: 

"The Yorkshire Mafia brings together executives and stakeholders from the Yorkshire Business Community to meet, network, share experience, learn, build relationships and ultimately trade (where appropriate). This is all done in a relaxed and sales-free environment."

How much does it cost?

Being privately funded, The Yorkshire Mafia doesn't cost anything to join. If you'd like to join then you can apply for entry into their LinkedIn group but you must be either invited by an organiser, or submit a supporting note with your application to highlight why you'd like entry and what you can bring to the group. 

The Yorkshire Mafia run a number of training courses, conferences, and meet-up events. Some of these are paid, but many are free to attend. 

How can I find out more?

You can view more details about The Yorkshire Mafia and how you can get involved here:

Yorkshire Enterprise Network

The Yorkshire Enterprise Network is a network of professionals from a range of private and public sector organisations represented across the Yorkshire region. They aim to boost the trade potential of the Yorkshire region through various activities such as networking, seminars, events and conferences.

Yorkshire Enterprise Network website screenshot


How does it work?

The Yorkshire Enterprise Network helps its members promote their own and each others' businesses for everyone's mutual benefit. They do this through many familiar promotional opportunities such as regular networking events, presentations, exhibitions and other meet-up events, as well as marketing activities to help raise member-businesses' profiles to the public and regional business community.

How much does it cost?

Membership is open to businesses whose owners/managers are aiming to develop and grow their business in the Yorkshire area and beyond. All applications are vetted to ensure and maintain in high membership standards. 

The Yorkshire Enterprise Network offers a tiered approach to business networking services. Membership fees are per year and start at absolutely zero cost to become a member, all the way up to £1000 for an Enterprise level membership, with associated additional benefits.

Depending on your level of membership there are lots of benefits, such as:

  • Discounts of up to 50% on meeting rooms, conference sponsorship, and web development
  • Involvement in business forums
  • LinkedIn group membership
  • Free attendance to paid events
  • Partner discounts
  • Speaker slots at conferences
  • And many more...

How can I find out more?

You can read more about the various parts of the Yorkshire Enterprise Group here:

What about 'x' networking group?

You'll notice that this list isn't exactly conclusive, nor particularly extensive; Yorkshire is a big place and there are literally 100's of networking groups.  

So why choose these groups and not others? Simple: variety...

All the groups we've discussed offer variety in spades, both in the format of their meetings, and the sheer scope of their meeting geography. 4Networking, for example, has over 20 meetings across Yorkshire within a 30 mile radius of the Red Guerrilla offices. So no matter where you find yourself, there's a good chance there'll be a meeting near you to attend on a day that suits. 

How about smaller, really local networking groups?

Although the ones present in this article are Yorkshire-wide, national or even international, there is loads of value to be gained by searching out some local business networking groups in your immediate vicinity. In Selby, for example, there are two great local groups: Selby Business Buddies (link to Facebook page) and BSYNY Enterprise Networking Cafe

By attending nearby groups you can really get to know more about your fellow local businesses and what you can offer each other.

Ready? Get set. Network your socks off!

So, now you should be well armed with a veritable Aladdin's cave of business networking knowledge. The key to finding out which Yorkshire networking group will work for you is a matter of half research and half trial and error. Do you know anyone in any of the above networking groups or organisations that can give you an introduction or give you an 'insiders' view? It might help you make a more informed choice beforehand. 

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Topics: Guides & Infographics Lead Generation

Written by Rob Kendal

Rob has enjoyed a rewarding career in technology, from IT infrastructure through to software development, working with clients such as Virgin Holidays and the NHS. He understands the needs, challenges and logistics involved in making technology work for business and how to market it effectively.
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