networking groups

Are Networking Groups Worth Your Time?

If you’ve ever watched Antique Roadshow, you know the appraisers will look at and study the item, they’ll ask questions and do a lot of digging before they’ll actually place a value on it.  Well, we kind of have to do the same thing for networking groups.  Every group has different intentions and goals, and even the makeup of the membership can change the dynamic of the group.  So, the idea of being worth it or not is really subjective and very personal for you.


However, I believe I have found four questions that we can all ask ourselves when grading these groups to determine whether or not we should join and be active.


#1: Are you actually meeting potential customers or people who could refer customers to you?


Talking with business professionals and trading best practices is always a good idea.  However, that is building connections and growing professionally, not networking for business.  If your goal is to generate legitimate leads for your business, don’t confuse your 1-2-hour chats in a group with no potential leads… as networking.


In fact, most groups I have ever visited, is a bunch of people all there to get leads, and none of them were interested in either becoming a lead themselves or sharing the name of potential leads.  So, everyone wanted business, but no one was willing to give business.  That… is a waste of your time.


#2: What is the time demands of the group?


Now, I’m not only talking about how often or how long the group meets, but also how does your time with this group impact your ability to attend other groups or events within your community and your industry?


One group I was invited to would meet every Monday morning at 8:00am at the local coffee shop.  Now, there is nothing wrong with meeting at 8:00am on Monday morning at the local coffee shop, if it works with your schedule.  But for me, Monday morning I am playing catch up on emails and social media messages from the weekend.  So, that was the worst day and time for me.


I was invited to another group that had a restriction that you could only be a part of their networking group and no others, and you had to attend a minimum number of meetings per month.  The best I can tell, that is a cult, not a networking group.


So, if the group is demanding a great deal of its members’ time, you have to figure out whether or not it is such a great referral source, that you can place all of your eggs in that one single networking basket.  And just a hint, the answer 99.9% of the time, is no.


#3: Are you the Santa Clause of referral giving?  In other words, are you giving everyone referrals but getting none in return?


Now listen, I am all about giving, giving, giving, and then receiving.  So, I am not opposed to putting a focus on giving out referrals to other group members before getting referrals in return.  However, there has to be the receiving of referrals on the other end of the equation, or you are not in a networking group, you are in the networking north pole, and you are the big guy himself.


You are in the group “to generate leads for your business”, it’s not a bad thing “to expect leads for your business”.


#4: Can you trust these people with your referrals?


In some groups, they really put on the pressure to give referrals.  I’ve even seen a group that rang bells and had scripted cheers when numbers were hit.  Some groups even have requirements on how many referrals you have to give out just to keep your membership.


And sure, meeting with a person a few times per month, you could probably determine whether or not he or she was a nice person.  But do you really know about their product or service?  Do they really take care of their customers and employees?  Can their product or service really help the person you are referring, or are you just giving a name to get them off your back?


Every time you give a referral, your reputation is connected to that business’s performance.  So, be very comfortable with a business before you refer them out – and certainly never give in to the pressure to refer… just for the sake of hitting some arbitrary number set by the group.


At the end of the day, if the networking group matches your goals, the membership is a good fit for your personality, and you can increase your performance in networking and generating leads, it may be worth considering.  Just remember your time is very limited.  Only commit to groups that are moving your business forward, not frustrating or even hindering your networking efforts.


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