It seems that almost daily I am hearing about “New” networking groups popping up everywhere. Now it may be because of my position that I am hearing about them, but it becomes frustrating as I believe it simply illustrates how far too many professionals lack respect for networking as well as the understanding and true concept of what it means and how it works.
Now you may ask yourself “respect for networking? What the hell is Tim talking about?”
It always amazes me how important referrals are for business owners yet networking isn’t. Every single one of us desires more high quality referrals for our business. Take a moment and Google “importance of referrals” and see how many articles talk about the subject.
OK so that isn’t any breaking news, but then why is it that most of these businesses do ZERO research, or put in ZERO thought into the organizations they are joining to network for these referrals?
This is what I mean by lack of respect for networking.
Every person who starts their own business, or enters the world of sales, knows they need to network. It is common sense, however, they assume that the act of networking is common sense. Many professionals assume that everyone knows how to network so we can join any group and get results. Even more insulting is that they assume they can just start their own group, because again everyone knows how to do it so why not.
It is no wonder that most small business fail in their first three years. Most of these new business owners, and new sales professionals, become very good at what they do. They spend countless hours studying and practicing their craft. However, they spend little to no time working on how to find customers for that service. They will invest what little money they have to begin with on traditional marketing ideas like flyers, or mailers, etc. Then when that money is gone they will become desperate and “try to network” but now they are looking for the free event, or the free organization that promises them all kinds of wonderful things like ADVERTISING (didn’t that just not work) or DISCOUNT CARDS, etc. Soon after joining they realize they are not getting any results and they give up. Frankly I am surprised they even last an average of three years.
I get this post sounds like I am just ranting, and I guess I am a bit, but the truth is it doesn’t have to be this way. I have dedicated my professional life to teaching professionals that you can get the referrals you desire, and you can make your business more efficient, effective, and enjoyable through word-of-mouth marketing, but it begins with having some respect for the process and your business.
If you truly want to grow your business and do so through high quality referrals you need to start by researching which type of networking you are going to begin with (yes there are many types) and what organization, or tool, is most likely to help you achieve your goals. Research the organization thoroughly. Here are some questions to think about:
- What is the organizations history?
- What results have they produced for their members in the past year? Past 5 years? Past 10 years?
- What is the structure of the organization?
- What is the expertise of the people running the organization?
- What is the cost vs the average return?
These are just some of the questions you should begin asking when looking into Networking Groups. Over the past two weeks I have heard of 3, yes 3, new “networking groups” just in New England. I have been asked about these groups from clients and what my thoughts are. I am not going to name these groups, but after a little research, and some knowledge about the people running them, I found out that 3 of the 4 groups were started in the past year by people who have ZERO background in networking besides going to meetings themselves. I personally know that 2 of the 4 leaders of these groups where kicked-out of other networking groups for being ineffective or unethical members. One of the groups is calling itself an “International Organization” while it only exists in a couple of States. One of them is promoting themselves as an organization that trains its members but when you click on their training calendar there hasn’t been a local training in YEARS. Finally another, despite all their arguments on why they are not, is clearly a Multi-Level-Marketing organization who has an average group size around 8 members. Not really a lot of depths to those groups, and you have to question the motive of the other members and why they are there.
Look, you need to ask yourself one simple question when it comes to networking. What are you looking to accomplish? Are you networking because you just have too much free time? Are you networking because you just want some social time in your life? Are you not having enough fun in your life? Do you not have enough friends and hope to go networking meetings to meet some? OR are you looking to get referrals and grow your business?
Once you know why you are there then figure out which organizations are going to help you accomplish that goal. There are great organizations out there with true structure, experience, focus, and expertise. You need to ask yourself what is your focus and which of these organizations will help you achieve your goals. Don’t be tempted by the “New Thing”. Do your research. Why is the group suddenly popping up? What is the history and experience of the people running it? You will often find they are starting their “new”, “better” group because they have just recently failed in another.