Getting to know your colleagues is a must. As a business owner, you wear many hats. Even so, it’s important to make sure that you keep in touch with associates in the business world. Business networking groups have sprung up all over, thanks to popular apps like MeetUp. The point of all of these groups is to bring business people closer together for social networking outside of the digital world.
What kinds of Business Networking groups are available?
The groups can range from something as structured as a BNI (Business Networking International) group to more casual groups that will meet for a drink after work hours. Some business networking groups can be dedicated to a specific niche, like social media marketing or accounting. The point of these more niche-specific groups is to bring like-minded persons together to share information and tips and collaborate on teamwork. These groups generally meet on a weekly or monthly basis and are very casually run.
More structured groups are available to all business types, but only one business of each type can be allowed per chapter. BNI is the most popular structured business networking group. Members routinely receive significant business from group referrals. While it isn’t a free group, dues are paid back many times over throughout the course of the year. BNI statistically has the highest return on investment; however, it also requires the most time commitment. There are weekly meeting requirements that must be met for membership eligibility.
Chambers of Commerce
Your local Chamber of Commerce is also valuable business networking tool. These groups generally meet at any time of the day and represent the interests of the business community; they also tend to be a bit more social and less of a time commitment. Membership in a Chamber provides access to an extensive referral network: people looking for specific business services will often call the local Chamber for a trusted business referral.
What can I expect from a typical group meeting?
Different meetings have different styles. A Chamber of Commerce meeting tends to be more socially oriented through breakfasts and lunches; however, there will also be competitors there, so it may take longer for there to be a return on your efforts. BNI is highly structured and follows a set program every week. Casual groups can follow any format.
Outright selling at a business networking group is considered inappropriate and should be avoided. By all means, talk energetically about your business. Use the networking time to educate your fellow businesspeople. Now would be a great time to direct them to your website, where they can find out more information and subscribe to your newsletter.
One thing to always remember when attending a business networking meeting: bring business cards! You never know who will be attending. Always make sure you have attractive business cards on hand with all of your up-to-date contact information. It is well worth the investment to have attractive, accurate business cards made.
How can these groups help me?
Business networking can be the lifeblood of a business just starting out or one that has reached a plateau and needs a pick me up. Are you introducing a new product or service? What better way to do so than in person? A lot of communication is lost over the internet: facial expression, inflection, body language. When we meet others in person, even casually, we receive all of these cues and trust is built. A handshake is a powerful business tool.
At the end of any networking meeting, having a great website for your potential leads to visit is important. Contact Us for a free evaluation of your web presence.