When building your professional network you will need to meet people who can help you. It is believed by many who start building a network: quickly find a group and just join. "It is better to dive in and get started." The problem is that just joining any group doesn’t guarantee you will be working with quality people.
You’ve probably heard the expression…,
“Fools rush in where Wise men fear to tread.” - Alexander Pope
Rushing into joining networking groups may be foolish or wise. A person can spend a year or more in a group frustrated by a lack of success.
There are two pitfalls with any business group. 1) People leave too quickly or people stay too long. 2) Often groups sell what I call “hope”.
You hope it will work. You stay with it hoping that tomorrow someone will give you a referral. Everyone in the group will want you to succeed. This is probably true, but the reality is that not everyone in every group can really help you. If you sell B2B (Business to Business) it will be hard to help a realitor or an home inspector whose market is family homes. Don't fall for the "7 points of seperation" arguement. While it's true, imagine trying to get 5 of six people you don't know to trust you. You need a group with 1 to 2 points of seperation from your target customer. (Wait you do know who your target customer is don't you?" but that's another blog post.)
So how do you judge whether a group will be a mutually beneficial group? Well you’ll have to visit the group. The first thing you ‘ll notices, is that everyone will be very happy to have you involved with the group. Realize that,
- Some group members will be thinking, “aaaahhhh! Fresh meat.”
- Other members will be thinking, “Aaaahh! New opportunities.”
- Other’s will be thinking, “I wonder if we can work together?”
It goes without saying that you are looking for a group of people wondering how they can work together with you. In the next section, I’ve outlined a list of people you’ll find at networking events.
What i've found is that researching is very important. Like Franklin's Junto, you are going to be investing a lot of time. Think about who you are, your passions and your "Why..." Does the group you belong to, support your why. The types of groups you may run into include:
- Lead sharing groups - With a meeting focused on sharing leads within an exclusive group where one type of company is invited (for 1 realtor)
- Mutual interest - A group of people interested in Self help (like toastmasters) or a charity or hobbies.
- Business Associations - Groups focused on a spefic industry or business role
There are many groups, but i find I prefer the groups where my target customers frequent. The second type of group I like are associations where legitimate businesses are developing information and/or promoting an industustry.
For an assessment of the types of groups where you will meet expert and master networkers interested in mutual benefit, I'll be happy to send my checklist for selecting the best groups to join.