Paul Green, Group Director of NNcoNNect recently identified 36 different networking groups in Northamptonshire and reckons he didn't capture them all. So how do you decide which ones are best for you?
choose your networking groups wisely and get the best return on your investment
Here are my tips for choosing the right ones for you. You do need to try different groups first so that you can see which will give you the best return; however, follow my suggestions and structure your networking efforts accordingly:
For goodness sake don't try and visit them all!
Where do your best referral contacts network? Save yourself - and them - some time by choosing groups they're in. Then you will meet regularly and deepen your relationships.
Join one - and only one - constant contact group. These are membership groups where you meet the same people regularly. This should be your core group where you develop those relationships that will result in a regular flow of referrals. So choose carefully and make sure there are members who know the sort of people you want to be referred to. Why only one? This demonstrates your commitment to the other members and reduces your conflict of interest between referral sources; however, mainly because there is no evidence that joining more than one such group increases your referrals. So why waste your time?
Here are some that I recommend in Northamptonshire:
BNI - BNI is the sister organisation to the Referral Institute. It offers a highly structured approach to building strong referral relationships. The BNI policies and agenda is designed specifically to facilitate your Strategic Referral Marketing Plan. The Referral Institute provides the game plan and BNI provides the playing field. If joining, be aware of the total nature of the commitment - to attending and contributing weekly and getting involved in running and strengthening the group. It has the advantage of offering proven training to help you get the most out of your membership and building a solid network of like-minded people.
NNcoNNect - This is my chosen group. I like the fortnightly meetings and the format which facilitates building relationships. The break for breakfast allows you to chat socially and the short one-to-one slot enables you to talk to another person in more depth. The meeting also encourages discussion around business topics which allows people to demonstrate and share their expertise and contacts which builds members credibility - a vital step in getting referrals.
Women In Business Network - Only for girls I'm afraid! This is a great group to belong to if the majority of your clients are other women or if you just feel more comfortable relating to the way women network. Barbara Hodgson runs strong groups that are not just "women who lunch groups" but designed to help women build strong business based relationships that result in increased business for the members. They also provide regular training to members.
Invitation only groups - I support two groups run by one of my clients Chancery Accounts and Tax. The aim of the groups is to build strong referral and support communities for local businesses in Milton Keynes and in the rural community around Towcester. See my blog post entitled Generating Amazing Business Together for more details.
Join 2 other networking groups. You should choose them to support your other networking goals.
Identify great connections and introductions for your referral partners. Help promote them to others. It's a good idea for you and your referral partners to go to different events to maximize your joint influence. Some which I support are:
To give you information and education about your local business community or specific industries. Professional associations such as Federation of Small Businesses, Chamber of Commerce, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport.
To increase your influence locally in your business community and maybe to give back to your local community. Charitable groups such as the Rotary Club, Lions Club or those run by charities.
Your hobby or special interest groups. Don't forget to have some fun too! Many great relationship are built whilst playing or supporting rugby, golf, amateur dramatics, choirs!
Take care when joining these other groups and take into account the prime purpose of the group and use them to develop relationships. Pitching your services and trying to sell directly to others in the group is likely to be rebuffed.
So take a look at what is around your area and talk to your network about which ones they belong to and recommend. If you'd like a more detailed report on choosing your network call me on +44 (0) 7970 638857 or click here to ping over an email and I'll send you a copy. I'm always happy to talk through some options with you.
I help people build and maintain productive working relationships both with their work colleagues and with a wider network to win more business. I do this by combining my skills in coaching, mediation and training with my extensive experience in senior management.
What I love most about my work is when my clients get those “aha” moments because I know they have seen for themselves the way that they want to move forwards. Then they will achieve their ambitions.
Helping people who are having challenges with their working relationships gives me enormous pleasure. It was my privilege when working in health care to see how people working together can make the impossible seem easy and accomplish miracles as a result.
So helping people build or restore strong relationship with their colleagues makes even the hardest work easier, alleviates distress for the individual and reduces problems for the whole organisation.
In all this work trust is an essential ingredient to winning business so most of my work comes through referrals. Referrals come through strong business relationships so it was a natural extension for me to work with Ascentiv and train others in how to get consistent and predictable referrals from their network.
No unauthorised use, duplication, distribution or modification to any original content contained within this blog is permitted without prior written permission of the author. All other trademarks and registered names are acknowledged.