Why Should You Join a Networking Group?
If you are new to networking and unsure of the benefits of networking, then this blog post is for you. Lately, I’ve been attending at least 1-2 networking events per week, to help spread the word about my marketing and sales business. Networking is extremely powerful and can help you build strong connections with potential clients. The other major advantage of networking is that you can build a strong community around you that can support you both in business and for moral support. Another small business owner has likely been in the same situation as you at some point in time and may be able to help you with suggestions or provide you with a viewpoint on how to solve your marketing problem.
BUT, how do you find a good group to network with? Which groups should you be attending? Read on for my top 5 questions to ask a networking group you are thinking of joining.
Top 5 Questions to Ask a Networking Group
There are so many networking groups out there and as more communities are built on social media through the use of Facebook Groups and Meetup, how do you decide which networking groups you should devote your time to? In most cases, most networking groups are fairly inexpensive but they will take up your time and energy. To get the most ROI out of your investment, make sure you have these 5 questions answered before you join a networking group.
1. What is the Theme of the Networking Group?
Networking groups with many different themes are everywhere. There are groups focused on different occupations, such as marketing, sales, real estate, etc. There are groups that are more geographically based, like the North Vancouver Business Networking. In the past few years, more women have been forming networking groups and these groups have only female members.
Determine what your goals are and join the group more relevant to you. For example:
- If you’re looking for a group that will provide some support for you and your small business, perhaps join a group that has similar interests.
- If you only want to work within a certain geographical area like Vancouver, join a Vancouver networking group.
- If your business has women as the primary target market, I would join a networking group that has only women members.
2. How Active is the Networking Group?
You want to find a networking group that is active online, offline, or both so that you can build stronger relationships with the other business people in the group. Getting referrals from a networking group can take a long time since you need to build trust and a relationship so you want lots of opportunities to connect with people over the long term. It also takes people a while to grasp what your business is so the more they hear about you and your business, the more likely you will gain referrals in the long run.
If the networking group is online, look at the following on their social media or on their profile.
- How often do they post?
- How often do they meet?
- Do they have online meetings? Offline meetings? Or both?
One group I belong to has both an online presence and monthly offline meetings. They have a Facebook group where postings by members are encouraged every day and upcoming events are advertised.
The more frequently you can connect with other people or business owners, the more likely you will find potential customers or people you can rely on for help and support.
3. What’s the Cost of Joining the Group?
There are some groups that cost nothing to join while others have a yearly membership fee. Lots of free groups are popping up everywhere, especially on Facebook and Meetup. Free groups are great but just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s the best for you and your business.
In addition to a yearly membership fee, some networking groups may also ask you to pay when you attend regular meetings. These payments usually help cover costs for the venue, food, beverages, or special speakers hosted by the networking group. For example, if the networking group meets in a restaurant, you’ll likely be paying for your meal.
If the networking group does require a yearly membership fee and has a set of member guidelines, that likely means the networking group is well-organized and can lead to more referrals. You may also be asked to attend meetings on a regular basis and can be penalized if you don’t.
Instead of money, other potential costs include time and resources. You may be asked to use your expertise to help keep the networking group going or they may ask you to volunteer to help organize events, etc.
4. What is Expected of Members of the Networking Group?
Each networking group has different rules about membership and who can attend. Each group is different so the best thing to do is find out this information online or contact the group organizers.
For example, one paid networking group, BNI, asks members to commit to regular meetings and if you are unable to attend, you must send a substitute. They also expect that you provide a certain number of referrals per month to other members of the group.
Some networking groups have rules saying only one profession can be represented within the networking group. For example, there can only be one physiotherapist, one chiropractor, one massage therapist, or one marketing firm in the networking group. If that’s the case, then you may not be able to join if the networking group has already filled the position.
5. Can You Visit the Networking Group?
Membership-based networking groups usually offer visitors a chance to attend the networking meeting a couple of times per year. Usually, there’s a maximum number of times they allow you to attend before you need to decide whether to join or not.
For paid membership networking groups, it is definitely worthwhile to request a visit to get a feeling of the different personalities within the group and find out the networking expectations. Don’t be afraid to visit multiple networking groups until you find the right fit for you and your business. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time with these people!
Networking is an important part of building a small business and it’s important that you find a networking group that works for you, your business, and your personality. If you are unable to find any information online or if the group doesn’t have a huge presence online, contact the group organizer or administrator and see if you can connect with them to find out more about the networking group. Some networking groups may not be online or public so make sure you ask around to see what other networking groups are out there.
Do you look at any other criteria when you are deciding which networking groups to join? Let me know what is important to you.