A few months ago, I began wondering whether I should start a business networking group. After hours of brainstorming its benefits as well as the steps to start a business networking group, I decided to move forward with the idea.
As a certified public accountant with a responsibility for marketing my firm’s services and bringing on new clients, I wanted to find additional ways to help the firm meet its growth goals. I’m certainly not alone in these desires; many professionals have the same sales and marketing goals and desires.
When I started in public accounting after college, any sales or marketing efforts frightened me. I was too much of an introvert to be involved in those activities. However, my perception of sales (as well as my personality) have done a 180. It’s now the most enjoyable part of my daily routine.
Following are 11 reasons why you should start a business networking group.
Sales and marketing efforts take time. There’s no getting around that. Sales rarely just fall in your lap. You need to expend time and energy to achieve the success you want.
Even though it will take time, starting a business networking group will not take as much time as joining certain existing business networking groups. Some of the largest groups require one-on-one meetings with other group members on a weekly/monthly basis. That really requires a lot of time.
Also, having others in the group referring business to you takes a lot less effort and time than finding those prospects all by yourself.
By starting your own business networking group, you decide on the cost structure. Frankly, I recommend you start the group for all of the reasons listed here. Notice you will not see earning direct profits from the group as a reason.
Most networking groups charge annual and/or meeting dues. That is understandable only if the group has to pay to use the space where they meet or have food and drink catered. You don’t need to have those costs if you start your own group.
The most important benefit of a business networking group is the membership. When you start a business networking group, you choose who the members will be. Following are a few recommendations for choosing participating members:
1. Select only two or three people with whom you already have relationships. Meeting with people you already know well will reduce the impact of being in the group as you should already have a referral relationship with people you know well.
Ask two or three of your current circle of influence to join you. Once they agree to be founding members of the business networking group, ask them to bring one name with them to the first meeting. Vet those prospective members among the group and then have the person with the relationship ask them to join. Once that new member joins, go through the same process to continue growing the membership.
2. Limit the members of the group to one per professional specialty. For example, only one member can be a financial advisor.
3. Decide one a good maximum limit for membership. You could determine this based on space at the location where you will meet or number of professional specialties you want. You may also just pick a number, i.e., 10, and see how that works before asking whether the group members whether more should be invited to join.
You Set the Time and Place
The times at which networking meetings occur is likely one of the biggest reasons people won’t attend. It’s difficult for certain people to make it to an early morning meeting, lunch meeting or a meeting after work.
When you start a business networking group, you get to decide on the timing that best works for you. Since you will decide on the time, you’ll know what time to tell each of your prospective members when you ask them to join the group.
The location of the meetings should be somewhere centrally located for the founding members. You want it to be easy for each person to get to.
Naturally, as time progresses and the group matures, the day and location can change.
To make participation in the networking group easier for everyone, the group should meet on the same day of the week/month, e.g., second Thursday of the month, at the same time and at the same location.
Ability to Learn from Other Professionals
Since the networking group will be composed of different professional specialties, you’ll have the ability to learn from each of them as to their areas of expertise.
For example, a residential real estate agent can teach you about all aspects of the house selling process, including how to stage a residence for sale, improvements for which you’ll get the highest return on investment, times of the year to sell your home, etc.
Hopefully if you decide to sell your home in the future, you’ll use the person in your group as your agent. Even if you don’t, you’ll know the questions to ask an agent.
Ability to Learn Marketing/Sales Tips
Different professions use different methodologies when selling their services. Some professionals are well-versed in the use of social media
, internet marketing, cold-calling, etc. Ask each member of your business networking group to share their sales process so each member can determine if any of the steps in that process can help them.
Help Others by Giving Referrals
Referring prospects to the group members is important because you will likely not receive any referrals if you don’t. Before you refer someone to a group member, be confident in that person’s ability. When you refer a friend to that professional, your reputation is on the line.
When giving referrals, ALWAYS give your group member’s contact information to the referral rather than the other way around, unless you receive direct permission from that referral.
Any good salesman will want you to give him the contact information but resist the temptation unless you have express permission.
You decided to start a business networking group primarily to build your business. You want referrals. That’s the reason everyone else joined too – to build their businesses.
If you want to receive referrals from your networking group members or anyone else, you MUST do what you say you will do. You cannot allow a lack of expertise or action jeopardize the referrer’s reputation.
Top Three Reasons to Start a Business Networking Group
Be a Part of the Success of Others
Helping others succeed in their business, relationships or life in general should be more important to you than building your business. You will experience more joy from helping a friend than from selling more services.
You can help your group members succeed by referring prospects, helping them with their sales funnels and even being a sounding board for personal difficulties. The more you help someone succeed, the more you’ll succeed.
Build Close Business and Personal Relationships
Even though I used the term sales several times within this article, I don’t believe in sales. Instead, I believe in building relationships. My goal is to create trusting relationships with people I meet.
People do business with others they know, like and trust. It’s easy to know a lot of people. It’s also easy to be liked by others. The most difficult part is to be trusted. Once you become a trusted resource, your business will grow like crazy.
When you start a business networking group, you’re giving yourself the opportunities to build close relationships that carry over from business to personal in nature. Become friends with your group members. Learn about their businesses but also learn about their families, their hobbies and their goals.
Be a Positive Influence
Each person has the power to influence others
. Call it your super hero power. You can influence people for good or you can influence people in bad ways. You choose which you will do.
By starting a business networking group, you’re creating a circle of influence. You might be just the person that group member needed to talk with about a failing relationship, difficulties with finances or even to answer spiritual questions.
Be vulnerable in these relationships. By this I mean to answer questions freely and have open discussions without reservation or fear of embarrassment. Be direct but not too direct. You could end up being the most important person in his/her life.
Have these 11 reasons convinced you to start a business networking group? If you need help starting your own group, please contact me
. I’m happy to help however I can.
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