Networking is a great low cost-no cost way of getting new business
I have been involved in free as well as paid network groups and if done properly they both give a very good return on investment. The following are a few things to look for when choosing a network group.
- Join groups that have members that are a good match for your business. Look for a groups with Real Estate Agents, HVAC contractors, Plumbers, Pest Control, Property Managers, Computer Repair Companies, Landscapers, Carpet Cleaners, Audio/Visual Installers, Home Inspectors and other service related industries.
- Try to find groups that are seat exclusive. (only one company per industry is allowed)
- Make sure the group is an active referral generating group and not just a bunch of people handing out business cards. I have visited a few that were nothing more than a gathering for coffee and donuts.
- Look for an organized group. Do they start and end on time? Are referrals being recorded and copies given to each party? Is the amount of money generated in leads being recorded?
One of the hardest things for new networkers to grasp is that in order to succeed you must focus an intentional part of your time on getting other members good qualified referrals. It’s not about you selling to your group; it’s about you teaching your group to trust you so they will sell YOU to their 200 plus associates and friends. The more you help others the more they will want to help you!
Note: From my personal experience, while free network groups can be very good at increasing business I have found that paid groups such as BNI generally have members that are more serious about generating referrals. Although BNI groups can have a $350.00 annual fee plus a $100.00 membership application fee it is still one of the best investments you can make. Note: Out of the 2 BNI groups I have been involved with I earned enough business to pay for my membership application and dues for 3 years in the first month of membership.
One of the biggest deterrent for many concerning network groups is the mandatory attendance policy. While groups vary some want you to send substitutes if you can’t make it and you are only allowed to miss a certain number of meetings. The only thing I can say to this is simply block that hour and a half per week just like you would any other business appointment. It is well worth it!
You can look for a BNI I group near you here: http://www.bni.com/ (They also have some great resources on effective networking!)