Live conversation, awkward pauses, and the exchange of business cards were our means of disseminating information to each other. And although the Internet has permanently changed the business landscape, networking is still an excellent way for many businesses to be more involved in the community, and grow their business.
That being said, you may not want to join the very first association or group you stumble upon. Doing some research to find a networking group that offers value to you and your business — either with educational opportunities, or potential to meet customers in your niche — can go a long way in helping you grow your business.
Here are five tips from Tingalls Graphic Design to help determine what types of networking groups are best for you to join:
Location of the Group
How far do you have to travel to get there? Even if it’s an incredible group, it won’t do you any good if it’s difficult for you to attend meetings regularly. And when it comes to networking and developing relationships, it’s all about attending consistently so your face remains familiar. If a meeting starts at 7:30 in the morning, which many do, a local group is much easier to get to.
Speaking of meeting time, considering when a group meets — as well as how often — is an important factor in deciding whether or not it’s for you. Are the meetings weekly, monthly or bi-monthly? If it’s a Rotary Club that meets weekly, you don’t have to attend every single week, but as with most things in life the more you invest, the more your gain. If the networking group meets monthly, or bimonthly, it’s critical for you to attend every meeting if you want to keep your stream of contacts and referrals healthy.
Demographic of Members
Do the members of the group have a budget? This may not be something you can determine before attending a meeting or two, unless the group’s website reveals member info. If they work for Kraft, there’s a massive budget. If the group is full of start-up companies, the chance of a meaningful budget plummets. Now, if said budgetless group has value to you — either in knowledge gained, or potential future business once the small business grows — then by all means join. Just remember to be clear about what your intentions are, and if the networking group fulfills at least one of them. Another good question to ask: are there a good percentage of members that would be interested in the services or products you provide? If not, the group is probably not for you.
Determine Your Uniqueness
Is the group inundated with people who do what you do? Or are you “the one?” If you are one of a dozen financial consultants in a group, then your “wow-factor” drops tremendously. If possible, you’re better off finding a group where you are the only person doing what you do. When it’s not possible, find a group that contains professionals in your niche that stink (only half kidding).
Check it Out
Go to a meeting or two as a guest to see if it’s the right mix of professionals for you. Any reputable group will welcome a potential member with open arms for a trial meeting or two.
Once you find the networking groups you’re looking for, get involved! Become part of the board of directors once you’ve been a member for a while. Or you can offer to facilitate a value-based workshop for the group, one that highlights your expertise and helps your fellow members.
Thank you for visiting Tingalls Graphic Design! If there’s anything we can be of service with, feel free to contact us anytime.