I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked people what they think of their networking group and they tell me they love their group. So I then say wow that’s great – you must be getting a ton of referrals. They then reply, no not really but I have met some great people in the group and “I hope” things will start to click. They usually end by saying “you never know.”
Crazy Business Model
When I ask how long they’ve been in their weekly group, they usually say something like – “well I just joined 9 months ago” and “I was told it takes a while to see results.” They also explain, it’s up to them to get to know everyone and if they don’t get results it’s because they probably didn’t put in enough effort. This strikes me as a crazy business model. They are paying a membership fee up front to join a weekly business networking group to improve their business development efforts and for lead generation to get introduced to new customers, yet they are told it takes a long time and if they don’t get referrals it’s their own fault?
Weird – that’s like going to a restaurant for the food, paying the bill up front, being told the food is going to take a while….and if you don’t like the food, it’s your own fault. Not a restaurant I would go to, but then again I usually go for the food. It makes me think, why do people stay in networking groups if they join to get referrals and over time they really don’t get many referrals? There must be other reasons they stay.
Other Value Networking Groups Provide
One immediate benefit people perceive when they join a group is obvious – they are now part of a group. Whether the group helps them grow their business or not, they now have meet some new people who are in a similar situation. They can now bond with the group over how hard it is to get referrals, gain new customers and grow sales. The fact they are not getting new business through their group becomes secondary. Over time, group members value the interpersonal relationships more then the dollars and cents they originally hoped to gain from joining the group. Back to the restaurant analogy, the food wasn’t great but the company was fabulous (which may have actually made the food taste better than it was).
Don’t Fool Yourself
This is not a bad thing. Just don’t fool yourself into believing the main value you will get from a random group of non-competing professionals is new customers. What makes you even think this random group of people will know the people you need to meet to grow your client base? But being in business is tough. We all need a support system, especially from people who understand the issues you’re dealing with. So join a regular weekly networking group for the support. Do not join for the business development and expect to get a ton of referrals because in most cases you will get the same results most people in networking groups get which usually end up in the “you never know” category. Then again, if you’re looking for more than support pick your networking group based on if the members of the group do actually know the same people you are looking to meet to grow your client base. I never order the chiefs choice tasting menu and hope I’ll be surprised and like the the random choices. I order what I know I like and usually get the results I’m looking for.