I was speaking for a group this week and was asked for the best way to find (and choose) a networking group. And even more specifically for their particular industry, loan originators. While I gave some pointers about choosing different types of groups and the tips to determine the dynamics I realized I neglected to get right down to the "how to".
I've been networking for at least 18 years and a lot has changed since the introduction of franchised leads groups to the practice of networking. Both good and bad. One thing I've discovered is many learn the practice of networking without really grasping the purpose. We published an article a few months ago, "The Evolution of Networking", in which we address the typical phases individuals go through as they master the purpose and practices.
Check the article at our website.
How to find a networking group.
Check your local papers and business publications for the business calendar.
Ask others in your profession where they network.
Google "networking, (your local area)" and see what comes up. In Portland Metropolitan area, check out the list we've assembled to serve you.
Visit your local chamber, or visit www.bni.com, www.letip.com and check out local chapters.
Before visiting or joining a networking group. Go back to basics. These basics should be in your working marketing plan. Most of us are continually refining these definitions as we gain experience and master the sales process.
Get clear. Think about what you really do for your customers. Not in titles or in vague descriptions. Get down to the pains, frustrations, and angst you relieve. Build a power word bank of those key words in the pain quadrant. Don't forget to add words from the WOW! spectrum too. After working with you, what is it your clients feels? For example, peace of mind, increase cash flow, debt free, etc. Remember this is not to manipulate prospects but rather to better connect, build rapport, and discover fit and time frame for your services.
Get focused. Who are ideal prospects for you? Get specific and target your ideal market. Don't be afraid to go for those cream of the crop individuals or businesses. Vague answers, such as anyone who needs what you offer won't serve you, your customers, or your future network.
Get partners. Identify those who share your ideal target market. These might be businesses who complement yours or those who are related to those in your prospective customers. For example, if you are a lender, strategic partners might be escrow officers, title companies, real estate professionals, insurance agents, CPA, financial planners, etc. These are service providers who complement your service. To go beyond the obvious, you can peer into your prospects Rolodex. Look at personal services such as hairdressers, personal trainers, door to door dry cleaners, personal chefs, etc. The key is to connect with those who might be aware of prospects with a need you can fill, who really understand the value of reciprocity and the power of partnering to increase impact, exposure, and add value to their customers.
Get connected. Determine where to show up to make the connection. Select events, organizations, or periodicals that connect you with those in your ideal target market or with partners.
As you venture out to attend with the prospect of making connections, ask yourself. Will this group connect me with those in my ideal target market or those who could be partners?
Your time and money are valuable. Visit any group twice before joining to see if the chemistry fits.
If you have some recommendations on finding a networking group, please add your comments!