Think “Google model” when joining a networking group.
When you do a search on Google you type in what you’re looking for and the results produced are sites that are most likely to provide you the information you want. The key words here are “results” and “most likely.” Google works so well because it provides the results you want. You don’t get a random set of results you then have to scroll through hoping you come across those golf clubs or answer to a medical question you may have. The same exact concept applies to networking groups, but surprisingly people don’t think of it that way.
Traditional Networking Groups Provide Random Results
Traditional networking groups are generally groups of random, nice, non-competing professionals. They may be fun to hang around with but they are unlikely to get you the results you are looking for. Think of each group member as a Google search. Let’s assume you joined the group to do a search for decision makers you want to meet in order to increase your client base. The search criteria you present to the group may be something like: “A good referral for me is a CEO or COO at a privately held, NY Metro area, growing company in the healthcare industry, with sales between $50 – $250 MM.” The results you get back will completely depend on who the other group members know. These are going to be random results because you are networking with a random group of people. If no one is in the healthcare industry or only calls on CTOs and CIOs they probably won’t be able to help you, even if they want to. Remember, the people in your group are nice. They may sincerely want to help, but just are unable to because they don’t have the contacts you need.
The Google Model Works Better
Now if you join a networking group where everyone is likely to know the decision makers you want to meet, then your search will yield positive results. You present your search criteria to the group and you get the results you’re looking for. So, what does a group like this look like? It’s really quite simple. The people who are most likely to know the decision makers you are looking to meet are those nice, non-competing professionals who call on the same target customers you are. Everyone in the group will say: “A good referral for me is a CEO or COO at a privately held, NY Metro area, growing company in the healthcare industry, with sales between $50 – $250 MM.” The group must be defined by who the participants call on. This will take the randomness out of your networking results.
Added Values and Group Goals
Now that you have the right people in the room, these people also become the best people to give advice on how to build your client base within this particular market. So now your networking group has also become a mastermind group. These groups often go from giving advice to giving referrals to forming strategic partnerships to actually strategizing ways to target particular customers for the benefit of the group. Now tell me, when has your traditional networking group ever done that?
Google was really on to something when they decided that their mantra was to get users more focused, better search results. If your networking group isn’t getting you the results you were looking for, then find another “search engine.” Find a networking group that can and will introduce you to the decision makers you want to meet.
Jonathan Rosen is Founder of Collaberex www.collaberex.com which forms and facilitates non-random business development groups in the NY Metro Area. He is also a frequent tennis player. When he plays tennis he never just asks random people who play sports to play with him and then hope some of them may play tennis. Funny how that works.