The face of business networking is changing. There’s so many more options today than there were even 5 years ago. Businesses are facing the choice of dedicating their time and resources to traditional networking ideas or newer technology based solutions. The answer to this question will vary from business to business based on the business itself and the characteristics of it’s particular industry, the comfort level and skill set of the person in charge of networking, and the goals of the business.
The Value Pages Group works to meet business networking needs online. Members aren’t required to meet a quota of referrals, nor are they encouraged to give cold referrals.
Instead they are provided with an environment where they can build relationships, educate their peers, and get to know the members of their business community around their own busy schedule…anytime, day or night. There are no mandatory meetings, no lunches to buy, no travel required.
There are lots of great services provided to business owners for free, as well as some premium options. We work hard to provide our members with an overwhelming value proposition that gives them access to not only networking opportunities, but also branding and marketing opportunities that leverage the power of their entire local business community.
If you’re interested in plugging your business connections into a system that engenders business growth and referral reciprocity while providing both business to business and business to consumer relationship building tools, I would like to talk to you.
The Value Pages Group offers an exciting way to meet your business goals and make money all along the way.
With so many variables and choices, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of things to consider when choosing a business networking group. Here’s my top 5 list:
1. The Rules: Some people thrive in a structured environment. Others of us find lots of rules to be a drag. Depending on the group you decide to join, make sure that you understand the rules. Some networking organizations are very strict and you can find yourself ousted if you don’t play by the book.
2. Your Time: Typical networking groups meet weekly at a specific time and location. Sometime businesses join without understanding the rules (see #1) only to realize that the time of the meetings is not convenient for their schedule and work load. One group I was in, had an attorney who was often absent because he had to be in court. Perhaps he should have chosen a morning group instead of a lunch group.
3. Money: Annual membership to a networking group is going to run you anywhere between $300.00 to $600.00. Many will take that cost at face value, but in fact there can be other expenses. If you’re meeting with a traditional business networking group for either breakfast or lunch, you also have to pay for your meals every week. At $15.00 per meal, that’s an additional $780.00 per year. And of course participating in a networking group requires a time commitment, and since time is money, that should be factored in too. You can count on spending 2 hours per week once you count travel time. How much is your time worth? Multiply your hourly rate x 2 hours x 52 weeks in the year. Even if you’re conservative with your numbers and factor in what you would spend on lunch anyway, you’re probably looking at a total investment somewhere north of $3,000.00. Now that you know what your overall output is, make sure that you are positioned to earn that money back through your networking activities. If you offer a very specialized product or service, or if your business is based on volume instead of larger more profitable transactions, you may want to inquire about what additional benefits there are to membership to ensure that your investment of time and money is well placed.
4. Expectations: How many referrals do you expect to receive, and how many do you think you can generate? The type of business networking group you join will influence the type of referral you receive. Some groups require you to bring a referral or a guest every week. Will you be able to meet that quota? The problem that sometimes creeps up in these types of groups is when you have a week where you haven’t been able to generate a referral. Members might choose to give sandbagged or cold referrals in order to meet that required quota. Is that the kind of referral you want to receive?
Other business networking groups specialize in cold referrals. These groups give you an abundance of people to call, but none of those people will know who you are or expect to receive a call from you. Usually you say what kind of a person you’re looking to connect with, and the members open their rolodexes and begin to find their contacts that match your description. Are these the kind of business networking referrals that you’re looking for?
Still other business networking groups have a more lax take and allow members to give referrals when they actually have them to give. If you don’t have a referral to offer, you might be asked to provide a testimonial of someone in the group who has done a good job for you or one of your contacts. This type of a business networking group consistently provides quality referrals, though the volume of the referrals received is obviously less than the previous two types. Would you rather have a lot of referrals, or just a few good ones?
5. Strategy: Most people will join a networking group to expand their client base and gain new referral partners. If you join a business networking group where you don’t already know the existing members, you have to allow some time for the membership to get to know you and trust that you are honest and capable before you can expect to receive any referrals. This process is inevitable and cannot be avoided, but it can be sped up. A great way to accelerate this process is to provide the membership with a portfolio to highlight your best work. That portfolio could include pictures of your projects, or even examples of what you have been able to accomplish and what you bring to the table for your clients. Make sure that you include letters of reference from your satisfied customers to demonstrate that you will make your referral partners look good for sending you business.
Other people recognize that a business networking group is a great framework to receive referrals from their existing sphere of influence. Some business owners have been very effective by either starting a new referral group, or joining a young one and populating it’s membership with their existing business relationships. This strategy allows “connectors” within the business community to leverage their relationships by introducing the various businesses that they work with. It also gives a structure that guarantees some reciprocity when it comes to referral relationships. Do you find that you give more referrals to your business connections than you receive from them? Maybe you should invite them to join your business networking group!
What is your experience with business networking groups? Have you found one type that works better for you than others. If so, why do you think it’s more effective? I’d love to see your feedback in the comments section!
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