The New Year is a great time to think about joining a new Networking Group or evaluating whether you wish to renew your membership of your current Business or Professional Networking Groups. Depending on your availability you should consider two or three different types of Networking Groups to join – but make sure you have the time to commit to building relationships.
There are many different types of networking groups out there. How do you know which ones to join?
1. Casual Contact or Informal Networking Groups
These are business groups that allow many people from various overlapping professions.These groups usually meet monthly and usually hold ‘drinks’ to allow everyone to mingle informally. These types of groups may also hold other meetings where there are presentations by guest speakers on relevant business topics.
These types of groups help you meet new people (particularly in your local area) and develop your business network by word-of-mouth because they enable you to meet hundreds of other business people. However, with so many members it is hard not be ‘just another contact’. To stand out you may want to consider taking on a leadership role as often such groups are run by busy professionals who volunteer their valuable time to ensure the smooth running of the group.
Who should join? All types of professionals, self-employed individuals, and small business owners and entrepreneurs.
2. Strong Contact Networks
These are networking groups that would be described as Hard Networking Groups and require a higher level of commitment. They often meet weekly for the primary purpose of exchanging referrals and often restrict membership to only one person per profession or specialty. They tend to be more structured in their meeting formats. An example of this type of organization is BNI. These networking groups tend to meet in the morning before the start of the business day on a weekly basis.
Who should join? Sales agents (B2B), self-employed individuals, and small business owners.
Some beginners can struggle with this level of commitment. Junior-level businesspeople without the ability to make decisions may also find the ‘hard-sell’ difficult.
3. Community Service Groups
They types of groups give you an opportunity to put something back into your local community while making valuable contacts and receiving good PR to boot. These groups can be good sources of word-of-mouth business and provide an opportunity for businesspeople to meet regularly. However, the primary focus of the group is community service so you should not join these groups to make a hard sell. You should join if you genuinely want to give something back to your community. An example of this type of group would be Rotary Clubs.
Who should join: There is no restriction on who can and should join.
4. Professional Associations
Professional Association members tend to be from one specific type of industry, such as banking, law, accounting, health, education – the list is endless. The primary purpose of a professional association is to exchange information and ideas. These groups are not for selling, but there may be opportunities for joint venturing and cross-selling although quite often the benefit comes from knowledge and a better understanding of your own profession.
Who should join: Professionals.
5. Social/Business Groups
Similar to casual contact groups but with a bit more ‘fun’ these groups tend to meet on a monthly basis and combine social activities with business or networking. Depending on the group this could be cocktails and drinks after work, sporting events and/or grabbing some food.
Who should join: Everyone
6. Women’s Business Groups
Women’s business organisations are very diverse and quite often have different aims. If you are female and looking to join on – it pays to do some more research on which is the right fit for you. The benefits of membership depend on the type of group you join. There are often groups aimed at working mothers, groups aimed at women who work from home, groups aimed at professional women, groups aimed at women in male-dominated industries such as Engineering, Property or Construction.
Who should join: All women. (Although most groups will allow male members as well).
Now you know what types of groups are available you should have an idea of which might be a good fit for you and what groups you might want to research further.
Joining the right Networking Groups can be an important part of your Networking Strategy.