Choosing A Networking Group
Choosing a business networking group to join can be daunting when faced with lots of options and the uncertainty of how best to invest your time, effort and hard-earned cash.
However like any business investment you can minimize the risks by taking a logical approach and objectively weighing up your options.
A step by step guide to choosing a networking group
1. What do you want to achieve from networking?
This is the first question to ask yourself and if you can’t answer it then you could end up wasting your time and money.
Some things people want to achieve from networking are:
- Gain contacts directly with potential clients or with people who
- share a similar client base
- Get advice or ideas from others
- Be part of a supportive network of like-minded individuals
- Build a network of reputable suppliers
- Develop confidence in presenting themselves and their business
2. Who do you want to network with?
- Do you want contact directly with clients or with people who share similar clients to yourself?
- Do you want to attend meetings targeted at a particular industry e.g health care sector or manufacturing?
- Do you feel more comfortable in mixed sex or single sex groups?
- Do you prefer to meet new acquaintances in large or small group situations?
3. When are you available to network?
Networking groups are run at all times in the day from early breakfast to late evening. You need to think when would be best for you – does your work constrain your availability or do you have to do the school run?
4. Researching networking groups
Once you are clear on what you want it is then about researching available business networking groups available to you that will help you to achieve your goals.
Some questions to ask
- What are the aims and ethos of the group. Some organizations are strictly referral passing organizations, others have a broader aim of developing long tern relationships. Some have strict rues, others none.
- Who attends the business networking group – will these be the right contacts for you?
- What is the format and the rational behind it? Some groups are literally a room full of people where you are left to take the initiative to introduce yourself to others – others are more structured to facilitate interaction with other attendees and air time for you and your business
- How many people are likely to be attending?
- What time are the meetings?
- How often are the meetings? – regular meetings with the same people often allow for much better development of relationships.
- Is a regular commitment required? Often groups that require regular commitment engender a culture of commitment in the group which again helps to build solid relationships with other members
- Is there a membership fee? Membership fees are no bad thing – it often helps to secure a longer term commitment from members – if you’ve paid a fee upfront then you will be more inclined to ‘stick at it’ and make it work for you. Membership fees also go towards paying someone to marketing and run the groups. However do ask what the membership fees pay for
- What other costs are involved? It is not unusual to pay a membership fee and also an additional amount to cover the costs of refreshments and room hire.
- Is only one person per sector allowed to attend or is it an open forum? Many smaller business networking clubs operate a policy of exclusivity allowing only one person in per sector, effectively ‘locking out the competition’ This can be a great way to get a group of people maintaining a sense of loyalty towards you and any referrals for that line of business will be passed your way.
What commitment is required. Some groups operate strict levels of commitment e.g. weekly meetings with the necessity of passing referrals each week whilst others are just simple ‘turn up’ if you feel like it. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.