So many of my clients tell me they go to a networking meeting or two but give up because nothing happens. My response is usually that you must give the group a fair trial. Building relationships takes time so you will need to attend a few meetings of one organization to see any progress. That said however some organizations may just be wrong for you and the sooner you decide that the less time you will waste and the faster you can move on to a group that will work for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to evaluate the group. If you can say “yes” to at least 8 of these the group is right for you.
1. Are there enough people from your target market and/or possible referrers to make joining the group regularly worthwhile? Your goal is to meet people who can either give you business or refer business to you. There should be a certain number of potential customer/clients or referrers there to satisfy your goal.
2. Is the group large enough so that you get a diversity of ideas and people? You want to learn how others see the value of what you do from a variety of perspectives. In a small group not only will you have fewer prospects and referrers but you also will not be exposed to as many different points of view. Different points of view can help you to craft better answers to objections, see your offer in new ways, and find joint ventures that you had not thought about.
3. Does the group meet regularly so that you get to network with the people frequently? You are looking for a group that meets at least once a month. It is hard to build strong relationships in an organization that meets only once or twice a year. Fewer meetings mean fewer opportunities to meet people and fewer opportunities to reinforce an existing relationship. As the saying goes, “Out of sight out of mind.”
4. Is the group growing and attracting new members? New members bring new ideas and energy. Groups that are not attracting new members tend to lose members and fade away. Vibrant groups are growing and evolving.
5. Does the group have long term members? What kind of member turnover does the group have? When long term members leave you lose a lot of experience and contacts. Just as new members bring vibrancy to an organization older members bring stability and connections.
6.Is the overall philosophy of the group compatible with your philosophy? Some service organizations have a rule against talking about business. In some business focused group leads are expected to be exchanged. Will you be comfortable with a group with a particular focus? Also does the group understand and participate in the general networking philosophy of giving to get? Of course you must be ready to help others and give to them if you expect to get help yourself. This philosophy is a basic one in networking both online and off. Are you prepared to do this yourself and does the group you are considering joining encourage this?