So, you’ve taken the initiative to join a networking group, now what? In a nutshell, go for it… play hard… work hard… make your membership worthwhile. Milk it for all it’s worth. How do you do that you ask? Well there are tons of ways; however what I’ve done for you here is compile a list of 5 staple tips geared to help you get the most value out of your business organization membership.
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➊ Show Up
As they say in the world of lotto, “you’ve got to be in it to win it”. It’s simply not enough to just join the organization on paper though; you really need to show up. Attend the general membership meetings, functions, and events. Isn’t the whole idea behind joining a networking organization to network and connect with others? Well you certainly can’t do that very effectively if you’re not there – so try your luck and come to the dance.
➋ Come Prepared To Play
Now there are tons of tips I can pile into this one alone – too much for this article – but here are a few that pack lots of punch.
Every networking organization has its movers and shakers – find out who they are and a take a few minutes to learn a little bit about them. Additionally, peruse the membership directory and pinpoint specific members that you want to network with and do the same. I think you’ll find that a little advanced homework can go a long way – generally people can tell if you’ve done your homework and are usually quite flattered.
Be prepared to introduce yourself as well as be able to answer that dreaded question “so, what do you do?” I recommend having both a 10-second introduction that clearly says who you are, what you do, and who you do it for; as well as a more detailed 30-second version that expands on that a bit to use when connecting more deeply with other members.
Bring plenty of business cards! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered networkers without them – I hate to sound harsh but, in the world of business networking that’s just unacceptable.
➌ Get Involved
One of the things that separate the good networkers from the great ones are their willingness to get involved beyond the general membership meetings – If there are committees available, they pick the one or ones that resonate with them and participate. If there are leadership positions such as a “Board of Directors”, they ante up and let it be known that they’re interested. They actively seek to deepen their relationships with the movers and the shakers by getting more involved.
➍ Network between Meetings
I don’t know of any business organizations that prohibit networking with other members between general meetings – so why wait? Follow-up with those you met at previous meetings and reach out and introduce yourself to others that you want to connect with whom for whatever reason didn’t attend.
➎ Leverage the "Other" Benefits
Besides the one obvious benefit of networking, most business organizations also provide a variety of other useful benefits to its membership. Not sure what those are exactly? – Ask. For example, you may be able to get yourself and your business listed on their high-traffic web site. Also, there may be member-to-member discounts on products and services that you could take advantage of. Some organizations such as Chambers of Commerce even offer discounted medical and dental benefit plans for its membership. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
So in closing, be clear that no matter what business you’re in, it’s all about relationships and there’s no better marketing strategy to connect with people than networking. Networking really does need to be a core marketing strategy of every business, but remember, if you’re going to do it, go all out and do it to the best of your ability.