In this episode, Barbara and Nick discuss:

  • How does Zoco differ from other networking organizations?
  • What are the different types of people who are very keen on networking?
  • What are some of the tips Nick has to get the most out of networking?

Key Takeaways:

You have to be passionate about your business and be able to talk about your business.” – Nick Blanchard

“We must remember we have two ears and one mouth. I know we’ve all heard it. We need to use it in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you speak. You ask about them, ask about what they’re doing.”- Nick Blanchard

“Make sure the real you comes out. Don’t pretend to be somebody else.” – Nick Blanchard

Connect with Nick Blanchard

Twitter: @ncblanchard




Connect with Barbara Hales: 

Twitter:   @DrBarbaraHales



Show website:




YouTube: TheMedicalStrategist



Dr. Barbara Hales: Welcome to another episode of Marketing Tips for Doctors. I’m your host, Dr. Barbara Hales. Today, we have Nick Blanchard as our guest. We will be discussing Zoco and the networking community, whose name was derived from Zoom and coffee. At the heart of its mission are community and support. Zoco was officially launched in August during the lockdown and had visitors from all over the world.


Many can do business completely online, and members are encouraged to set up one-to-one calls with each other outside of meetings. Building relationships is critical not only for business success but also for our mental health. Nick Blanchard, based in Hampton, Southwest London, is the founder. He hosts these meetings but also enables you to host your local groups. Welcome to the show, Nick.


Nick Blanchard: Thank you very much, Dr. Hales. It’s an absolute privilege to be here. And thank you for inviting me.


Dr. Barbara Hales: How did you get involved in networking?


The Beginning of Networking Journey

Nick Blanchard: I remember the day quite well. I used to run the family business for a long time. Fifteen years ago, I was involved in production. I was in the day-to-day running of the business, as the actual nuts and bolts of the business, hiring and firing people but not involved in sales. Then, a friend of mine suggested I come on to a networking event, and I’m not quite sure why but I thought why not. I turned up and was very nervous because I knew I had to present for 60 seconds about the business. One thing led to another, and I realized that my passion was to meet and know people and understand people’s businesses.


The business I was running at the time was going through an interesting time in its existence. It coincided with me needing to meet the people. I didn’t know then, but I needed to meet people. My father died a couple of years later. From then on, I needed to meet people to help with my business. I needed to meet an accountant, a solicitor, and a business coach. These are all people I’ve met through networking and built-up long-term relationships. I joined that networking organization 12 – 13 years ago, and it led me to run groups for other people. I was privileged to run the Putney chapter of BNI, Business Network International, started by the lovely Dr. Ivan Meisner, an American in the US where kind of your business network and breakfast networking were born and invented.


I ran Putney BNI for a year, but I was there for five years, growing it to be the biggest and best chapter in London. There were a couple of other reincarnations on the other banners with all the people. Then the pandemic hit, and this gave me the perfect opportunity to run my own business, my network organization online. One thing led to another, and here we are today with Zoco.


Difference of Zoco from Other Networking


Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, how does Zoco differ from other networking?


Nick Blanchard: That’s a very good question. I would never knock another networking organization. BNI is quite structured. It suits certain industries. What I learned from my 12 – 13 years of networking is that I want to do it kind of my way, it’s there. It’s less structured, with more community at the center of it. It has turned into a heart center community where people can properly get to know each other. The thing about networking is it creates friendships. But it kind of crosses the line sometimes. Friends and business friends – there’s a kind of a bit of a gray area about when we think their friends, but they’re also business friends.


What Zoco is doing is establishing proper business friendships—they are friends, but they are business friends first. What’s different about Zoco is that I’m really encouraging people to get to know each other on a personal level. Know, like, trust – you need to get to know someone, you get to you need to get to like someone need to get the trust someone. This takes time, and so, people are collaborating and working together. Get to know each other on quite a personal level and also, it’s quite a low cost.


Other networking organizations are quiet. They’re not cheap investments. But with the pandemic and lockdown, I was able to open at the moment online only fairly low cost. It didn’t cost me a huge amount of money. I can pass it on and keep the cost down. It seems to open up the doors for a lot more people. I think, hopefully, that answered your question what the difference. The other thing is, we have no kind of hard and fast rules because we are growing organically. I’m evolving, I’m adding things, and tweaking things, changing things, things aren’t set in stone, we don’t always meet at seven o’clock in the morning. We don’t have lunch at the moment, and we don’t always meet here. I’m adding stuff, taking stuff away learning as we go along kind of thing.


Dr. Barbara Hales: Have you seen a lot of success from the participants of the meetings?


Nick Blanchard: Absolutely. People ultimately join that work organization to see what they can get out of it to see how much work they can get out of it. Work has passed, and quite often to some of the most surprising set to the business. But again, it’s who they know, and this is all about networking. Once someone gets to know someone, they have that one-hour one-to-one, and they can dig down to what they are. Work has been passed and the therapists in the group have been tough for many different people this last year. This last year has been tough for the sole trader for the solopreneur calling what you like. In the UK, the employed people employed by companies have been furloughed. They’ve been having 80% of their salary paid. There’s been a big thing where 3 million self-employed people have fallen through the cracks. 3 million self-employed have not earned a penny. If their business had been affected by the last year, they’ve not earned a penny.


My point was, the mental issues have been ramped up. The therapists are doing very well because people need help. But there are all kinds of people doing well—photographers, website developers. Everyone needs a website. Everyone needs a photograph for their social media links. All the people are doing well. What I love most of all is the collaboration that people are forming. People are talking people. Clubhouse is big in the state, People are hosting clubhouse rooms doing podcasts and all kinds of things together. There’s a gardener who is working with the movement therapist because people aren’t exercising before they do their gardening. It sounds kind of collaboration. All types of work have been passed. My drop-off right at the moment is ridiculously low. No one’s dropped off now in the best part of six or seven months.


Dr. Barbara Hales: That thanks a lot to you certainly.


Nick Blanchard: If they weren’t getting anything out of it, they leave. I understand that. There’s a lot of meeting people is certainly the feedback I’m getting how great it was, and I love the collaboration. The members are working, sorting themselves, and working together. We’ve got a vibrant Facebook group that is open to all, not just members of a Facebook group. People promote events. There are events as challenges and workshops and clubhouse and podcast, there’s all manner of things that let me remember the doing and other members are supported, which are very important.


Dr. Barbara Hales: There are several benefits that doctors can get from networking. The four that I see for positions are introducing yourself and your practice to other professionals and health facilities in your area for referrals since we can’t go and shake people’s hands now for camaraderie and commiseration with other professionals going through similar experiences. Find out how other professionals are marketing and promoting their practices, and also becoming known to prospective patients in the community and finding out what they’re interested in.


Types of People-to-Keep on Networking


Dr. Barbara Hales: What types of people have you seen most keen on networking?


Nick Blanchard: Those four points are such important points. When you look at sole traders, solopreneurs call them what you like. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. All those four points you mentioned apply to everybody. You mentioned network in the medical community. It’s all about who the people in the room knows, like a dentist, for instance. I don’t fully understand the health situation in the States, but I know that dentists do quite a lot of networking in this country because in the dental industry over here, we have the NHS. Then we have a wide private sector. Dentists do a lot of networking because they want to meet people with teeth. They want to meet people who know people with teeth. It’s all about getting out there and talking to people.


This whole US vs. UK and what I can gather as a European, the Americans are never afraid to bang their own drum, which we are a bit shy to do. But if you are a fantastic dentist, go out and tell the world about the most amazing dentist. If you network someone next to you, he will then use you. He will say that he is the most amazing dentist, and everyone who hears that will say what he said is a fantastic dentist. The points you made, the people who do networking, are mostly in the sales industry. But they run their own company. It doesn’t matter what your business is because, as you said, we all have the same issue, whatever the business is. You need to generate sales, costs, look at things like social media. We had issues with the tax and accounting all yesterday. Whatever business you’re in, we all have the same issues


You raised a very important point about camaraderie. This last year, I started Zoco, and it was free last year. It was a safe space for people to huddle together and commiserate and say, “Oh, my word. How frightened Am I at the moment? Has my business basically overnight disappeared? What am I going to do?”


There was a caterer who catered large events. That was 100% of her income. She was self-employed. She got no money from the government. So overnight, her business disappeared. But she wasn’t alone. She came to the meeting, and she was surrounded by love and support. She’s a fully paid-up member of Zoco now like looking forward to events when they happen because we’re still not open up for large events in the UK. All the points you made about camaraderie, support, and learning what your competitors are doing. I’ve been in business now for over 40 years, and I enjoyed it. Twenty-five years ago, if you saw a competitor, you tend to run away from him or her. Now it’s very different. You see a competitor, and you go towards them and talk to him. “Hi there, how are things? How’s business? I’m the same with you, but we can learn from each other,” because everybody does something slightly differently so we have no lockout clauses in Zoco. We have more than one accountant, more than one solicitor, and more than one everything because they all do things slightly differently, but we can learn from each other. The four points you made are very important. I hope I’ve answered that question in a roundabout way anyway.


Dr. Barbara Hales: Do you envision people networking online once the pandemic is over?


Shifting to Online Networking


Nick Blanchard: Online networking will never end. We do a thing called speed networking. In real life, I’ve done speed networking. It is a bit like speed dating, to be fair though I’ve never done speed dating. But speed networking, if you imagine a long table with 20 people down one side, 20 people, down the other side. What happens if you speak to the person opposite you for five minutes? You tell them your business, and they tell you their business. You think, “Oh, interesting. I might be to help him. I can connect him with somebody who might be to help him.” Five minutes, then someone rings a bell and one side of the table. Moves one space, so you get a new person. But of course, in real life, it’s a nightmare. The noise, the chairs, someone takes too long to move, you can if you’ve got someone next you can hear them speaking, it just is an audible nightmare. But it goes online in breakout rooms like this, and it works perfectly. So, speed networking will always be online. The whole point of Zoco is that there is there will always be online networking. Some of it works. But we have to have an in-person meeting because of the energy meeting people, but we will be an interesting mix of online and offline. But now online networking is here to stay.


Dr. Barbara Hales: What would you say to someone introvert and wasn’t a big conversationalist? Would you say that networking? Could it still be helpful to that person? Or would you say maybe it’s not really for you?


Nick Blanchard: That is a fantastic question. Because if you are shy or an introvert, first of all, you have a business, you own a business, and you run a business. You have to be passionate about your business and be able to talk about your business at the drop of a hat. You should be able to talk about your business, and you should have in your pocket at least three or four scripts ready to go. You should have one sentence. When someone says, “if you’re left with someone, what do you do?” You should have that sentence ready to go with a one-sentence sound bite. You can explain what you do in a sentence. You should have a 22nd pitch, a 62nd pitch, and if needed, a longer pitch. But when it comes to the shy introverted person, if you imagine doing that 62nd pitch three or four times a week, or once a week for six months, I promise and guarantee you in six months, that introverted, shy person doesn’t exist anymore.


Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, that’s a great tip for someone who might say, how do I prepare, especially for my first online meeting, to have the various one, five, ten minute scripts.


Nick Blanchard: A person must make sure that they tell the hosts that they are nervous because a good online host is prepared for that and will gently make sure of that. I host in-person meetings, and I’m always thrilled by the feedback I get from people. They feel included, though, and they were very nervous, but we’ve all been there. As a child, I had quite a bad stammer. 13 years ago, when I was asked to stand out in front of 25 people and talk for 60 seconds, my stammer came back. But now I can talk. I can rattle off about networking without any problem at all. So the shy, introverted person must make sure they tell the host in an email or phone call, “I am nervous. I’ve never done it before. Please be gentle with me.” I promise you, if the host is any good at all, he or she will make sure they feel totally at ease and that they know what’s expected of them. I promise you that in six months of networking, they’ll look back on that last person and think who that nervous person was.


Dr. Barbara Hales: Well, that’s wonderful. What other tips do you have for someone in terms of how to get the most out of networking?


Tips to Get the Most Out of Networking


Nick Blanchard: I’ve produced a lead magnet, which I will send you details of. There are lots of simple tests and tips. We must remember, as I said, we have two ears and one mouth. I know we’ve all heard it. We need to use it in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you speak. You listen, you ask about them, ask about what they’re doing. You never thrust a business card in someone’s hand. You just don’t do that. It’s all about building relationships. You need to be honest, open, and passionate about your business because if you can’t be open, passionate, and honest about your own business, perhaps it’s the wrong business. As I’ve said, make sure the real you comes out. Don’t pretend to be somebody else. If someone asks you, “what do you do?”

You need that one sentence ready to go. I’ve been at a networking event, and I’ve asked somebody what you do. I’ve stood there for 20 minutes while they’re telling me. After a minute or so, I’ve zoned out. I did not ask you to speak for 20 minutes. We all want to speak, we all want to hear about each other, but we have to be upbeat, be ready to go, and move on to somebody else. I suppose the most important tip is the two ears-one mouth, and use them in that proportion. Be honest, open, and genuine.


Dr. Barbara Hales: If some of our listeners are interested in speaking to you further, how can they reach you?


Nick Blanchard: I am everywhere. I’m on LinkedIn. I have a link tree. I’m an Instagram, Zoco Nick. I’m on Facebook. There’s a Facebook group, which is the Zoco networking group. I’m happy to have a zoom chat with anybody to talk about the network. Networking is turning into a passion of mine, and it is now my business. But, it’s something that can help you improve as a person because it gives you confidence. People are happy and confident talking about their children for hours at a time. You should be in the same position to talk about your business. I can give you the link. I can drop it somewhere. I’m happy to talk to anyone in everyone. Bare in mind at the time, others can book a zoom chat with me, and I’m happy to answer any question about networking at any time. I’d be delighted to.


Dr. Barbara Hales: For our listeners, if you go to the show notes, you’ll see all of the ways that a simple click will get you to Nick Blanchard and Zoco. Thank you so much for being with us today, Nick. It was a lot of fun, and we learned a lot. This has been another episode of marketing tips for doctors with your host, Dr. Barbara Hales. Till next time!




The people who do networking are mostly in the sales industry


Twenty-five years ago, if you saw a competitor, you tended to run away from him or her. Now it’s very different. You see a competitor, you go towards them and talk to them.


Do you envision people networking online once the pandemic is over?



Online networking will never end.



You have to be passionate about your business and be able to talk about your business.


What other tips do you have for someone in terms of how to get the most out of networking?



We must remember we have two ears and one mouth. I know we’ve all heard it. We need to use it in that proportion. So listen twice as much as you speak. You ask about them, ask about what they’re doing. You’d never thrust a business card in someone’s hand.



Make sure the real you comes out. Don’t pretend to be somebody else.