So, you’ve taken the initiative to join a networking group; now what?
In a nutshell, go for it—play hard, work hard, and make your membership worthwhile. Milk it for all it’s worth. So how do you do that, you ask? There are numerous 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 networking group membership.
➊ Show Up
As they say in the lotto world, “you’ve got to be in it to win it.”
It’s not enough to join the organization on paper; you 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? 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
There are many 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 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 a 10-second introduction that clearly says who you are, what you do, and who you do it for. Additionally, a more detailed 30-second version that expands on that a bit to use when connecting more deeply with other members would prove helpful.
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 business networking, that’s just unacceptable.
➌ Get Involved
One thing that separates the good networkers from the great ones is 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 make it 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 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 you want to connect with who didn’t attend for whatever reason.
➎ Leverage the "Other" Benefits
Besides the one obvious benefit of networking, most business organizations also provide various other valuable benefits to their 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 website. Also, there may be member-to-member discounts on products and services that you could take advantage of. Some networking groups, such as the Chambers of Commerce, even offer discounted medical and dental benefit plans for their membership.
Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Final Thoughts On Getting The Most Value Out Of A Networking Group
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 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.