We’ve been considering the various attributes of networking groups other than networking over the past several days. Taking your time to commit to a group is important since you form the best connections over the long term and you don’t want to spend your precious time on a group which doesn’t fit. As always, many of these qualities should be secondary to whether a group will meet your networking goals. Still, consider them as they will contribute to long-term success.
Price. I know it’s supposedly crass to focus on money, but the membership dues for an organization are definitely a consideration. A group might be otherwise perfect for you, but if it costs more than you are willing and able to pay over the long run, then you run the risk of having to leave before you’ve had a chance to reap the rewards of membership. On the other hand, even if a group is free, it might not be worth your time to attend. Make sure the price of admission is worth whatever value you think you will take away.
Quick off the Mark. Some groups have a probationary period before you get to enjoy the perks of membership. In others, you are a full member as soon as you pay your dues. Each tends to result in a different culture. Those that have made it through a probation tend to be more committed to the group which results in a much more stable population. Those that don’t have that barrier to entry will tend to have a more fluid membership. You’ll have to decide which works better for your needs.
Rules. Every group is going to have its own rules for its members. Some groups will require that you bring guests to the events. Others will require that you pass referrals at every meeting. Still others might actively forbid promoting your business during meetings. Before you join, make sure you know what the requirements are and make sure you are willing to live up to them.
Speaking Opportunities. Now, by speaking opportunities, I mean more than just the opportunity to give an educational presentation or seminar to the other group members. Here I am talking about any chances to stand up and speak before the group. In some cases it might be a “pass the mic” situation where you get to announce your name and your business. In others it might be the opportunity to give a ten minute (or longer) presentation on your business and who your perfect referral would be. Find out what mechanisms are in place to let the rest of the members know who you are and what you do.
Target Market. Does the group contain members of your target market? Great. There’s a chance to serve them and hopefully gain some business. Even better would be if the group contained members who sell to your target market (and who don’t compete with you). These could be some of your best referral partners.
I’ll bet you never expected that there could be so many qualities to consider when picking out a networking group. While not all of them are of equal importance (and none are as important as whether the group will help you achieve your networking goals), be aware of those attributes which would be deal-breakers for you.
In the long run, you are far better off connecting with a group which is the best “fit” for you.
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