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For three decades, I have been traveling the globe teaching business owners and entrepreneurs how to effectively grow their business through referral marketing. During the course of my travels over the years, I’ve found that time and time again, those who are new to networking are hungry for information on how to get started. This makes complete sense because, after all, as crucial as networking is to business success, it still isn’t being taught in colleges and universities.
I think the main questions most new networkers have relate to trying to figure out what kind of networking group or organization is right for them. It can be overwhelming because networking is a big commitment if you’re going to be successful at it and you certainly don’t want to join a group that isn’t a good fit for you. So, if you’re new to networking and you’re in limbo about what groups you should or shouldn’t invest your time and effort with, I’ve outlined seven tips below that will help you narrow down the direction in which you should head.
1) Strong Contact Networks are groups that meet weekly for the primary purpose of exchanging referrals. Their meetings tend to be well structured and include open networking, short presentations by everyone, more detailed presentations by one or two members, and time devoted solely to exchanging business referrals.
2) Community service clubs give you an opportunity to put something back into the community where you do business while making valuable contacts and receiving some good PR to boot. They can be a good source of word-of-mouth business.
3) Your goal in tapping into professional associations is to join organizations that contain your potential clients or target markets.
4) Women’s business organizations have been instrumental in shaping the nature of contemporary networking organizations. Many groups are established as bona fide networking organizations; the members are there to network, and everything else is secondary.
5) Don’t let chance decide where you’re going to spend your time and effort. If you have associates, partners, or employees, consider their participation when deciding which groups each of you will target.
6) When evaluating groups, find out when and where they meet, then schedule those you want to visit during the next two to six weeks.
7) For each group, consider these issues: How long has the group been in existence? What is the basic philosophy of the organization? How many members does it have? What is the quality of the membership? How does the cost compare with other forms of marketing? How often does it meet? How do other members feel about the group? What is your overall impression of the group?
Whether you’re just getting started in the networking world or you’re a seasoned networker, I’d love to get your feedback on any additional tips which you’ve found to be particularly effective. Please share your thoughts in the comment forum below; thanks in advance for your participation!