Networking Groups can be a powerful way of adding clients and referrals… or they can be unpleasant drains on your time that take money and time away from your business. Here’s some things to consider when you are looking at joining a Networking Group.
- Cost – The big bugaboo – how much does it cost to join the group?
- Some groups have yearly expenses and then add on an joining cost as a filter to make the cost of starting in the group high. This means that people getting into the group are serious about playing but is hard on an entrepreneur that is bootstrapping.
- Do the groups offer renewal fees that stay constant or do they jack the price up every year? One group here locally recently increased their renewal fees from $300+ a year to almost double. That could be an indication that the group is wildly successful or that they losing money on meeting spaces or other costs so it’s best to check.
- Members –
- My experience has been that traditional networking groups are good for professionals like insurance sales people, lawyers, chiropractors, and realtors because one sale or contact makes the sunk costs back for these occupations. Networking groups are not so good for entrepreneurs like Mary Kay, DoTerra, or coaches because they have to work harder at convincing the members that their services are “serious” businesses.
- Is there a good old boy/girl network that exists in the group? You see this in a number of Chamber of Commerce settings where there are people who have been in the organization for a long time. There is a lot of inertia one has to overcome when working with these groups to get in with the “cool kids.”
- Is this a group of people you like and can visit with every week? Do they spend much time networking with one another before the meeting starts and after the meeting ends or are they in and out? If you are new to a group and someone makes a point of coming over and introducing themselves to you and then making sure you meet other people, then the group is probably pretty serious about networking.
- Meeting Frequency – How much time are you expected to spend in mandated activities to keep your membership current?
- Many networking groups meet weekly or less frequently. Make sure you pick one that matches your specific needs. I have seen many networking groups that meet once a month start out well and then collapse because they lose the momentum gained from meeting once a week.
- The most successful networking groups have agendas they follow on a weekly basis. This provides structure but also accountability as you have to get up and share your message and demonstrate that you are an active “networker.”
- Good groups are respectful of the time of their members. They begin meetings when they say they will and end the meetings on time.
- Unexpected Costs –
- Some networking groups ask that you spend a couple of hours a week on outside activities – one on one meetups, social events, and so on. Check out what the group expects.
- Every non-profit has committees and leadership positions that need to be filled. Sometimes these require a great deal of extra work but sometimes they provide you with a lot of visibility.
- Are your networking meetings held at a restaurant? Some groups meet in the same place every week, some rotate the meeting places around with the membership. If food is involved, that could be an extra $10-$20 a week in additional cost.
- Technical acumen/savvy
- A lot of groups pay to have a website or one of the members will run a site. See if they have a directory where you will be listed or a way to contribute articles or videos to add to the content. Make sure you get links back to your site if you contribute website content and that you retain the rights to those articles.
- Given the rise of social media, good networking groups should at least have an active presence on Facebook to keep members informed of networking events and to promote activities of group members. If they are on Pinterest or Twitter, that’s a plus.
You can find out more about networking and working with others by listening to the SMARTcut® Radio episode where we discuss the DISC personality model.