Should You Join a Networking Group
Joining a networking group can be extremely beneficial for new business owners because it gives them access to valuable contacts. Solopreneurs in particular may rely on networking groups to belong to a community and learn from more experienced business owners.
Networking groups offer entrepreneurs more than an opportunity to exchange business cards. Meeting regularly with a group of professionals from a range of industries can spark new ideas, decrease your learning curve, lead to new opportunities and grow your business faster.
Can joining a networking group help your business? Read on to learn more about how networking groups work and how to get the most out of these meet-ups.
The low down on networking groups
A number of business networking groups are extremely well established with highly successful chapters worldwide. Groups like Business Networking International (BNI) or Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) require members to pay an annual fee, regularly attend meetings and support fellow members through a structured referral program.
The fees for membership to these networking groups can be quite costly, starting around $500/year or more. But satisfied members report they earn back the fee many times over each year.
Ongoing networking members feel it’s worth the time and financial commitment to join a group for the connections they make and the resulting growth of their businesses.
How to get the most out of networking groups
If you’re ready to jump in to a networking group, follow these tips to get the most out of a business meet-up or event:
- Be ready with your elevator speech. You should be able to sum up what you do in no more than 30 seconds. Focus on the benefits you deliver.
- Know the kind of help you’re seeking from other entrepreneurs so you can make the most of new business connections
- Listen carefully in meetings. Ask open ended questions to break the ice and encourage members to open up about what they need to grow their businesses.
- Volunteer to take on a position with the organization. You’ll get to know other members and gain greater visibility in the group.
- When your membership is about to expire, take careful stock of whether you want to renew or look for other networking opportunities that may be a better fit.
- Ask around for recommendations to find a local networking group that suits your needs. Research groups online to make sure you’re the only member representing your industry to maximize referrals.
Once your business grows you may continue to be drawn to a particular networking group even though you no longer need new business referrals. Many successful entrepreneurs enjoy taking on a mentor role to assist younger or less experienced members.
- Search for local networking groups through your Chamber of Commerce, Board of Trade or meetup.com.
- Speak with business colleagues about networking groups they enjoy and ask to be invited as a guest to check it out