Aug
06

Truth Or Delusion? It’s best to limit the number and types of networking groups you belong to.

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TRUTH

Again, in this case, it’s possible to attend too many networking groups, and it’s possible to attend too few.  The key is to attend a number of different types of groups, and not so many that you have to neglect any of them.  Each type is useful in a different way.

If you want something more definitive, we would say that three is the magic number. It can be more or less than three, depending on your abilities and needs, but there is a pretty good target for an effective referral network.  You can select from a menu of seven different types.

Strong Contact Networks (referral networking groups such as BNI) are structured explicitly to pass business referrals among members; they allow only one member per profession.  Strong-contact networks are particularly good for developing in-depth relationships because you see the same members week after week and pass referrals as part of each meeting.

Casual Contact Networks (chambers of commerce, for example) bring business people together in a less structured context than strong contact networks, but for many they are a primary source of referrals; membership is not limited by profession.  These groups are good for developing breadth in your network, but deep, long lasting relationships can be formed as well.

Service Organisations (Rotary, Lions etc) are associations that exist to provide and support humanitarian efforts and good works in the community and larger venues.  They also bring people together in settings that facilitate referrals and knowledge networking.  Like casual contact groups, they help you add breadth and diversity to your network.

Professional Associations or knowledge networks are established to exchange information and ideas among those in a given industry, as well as to promote and support that industry.  These networks often include direct competitors, but they also provide contacts in related but non-competing businesses as well.

Social/Business Organisations such as Jaycees (insert link) or business singles clubs, combine social activities with business networking and can provide a variety of networking opportunities; unfortunately, many tend to resemble singles bars.

Women’s Networking Groups are still important networking organisations but are slowly disappearing as women enter the business mainstream, especially as professionals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. In mixed strong contact groups such as BNI, about 40% or more of the members are women.

Online Networks  are a new phenomenon covering a wide range of interests. Many such as www.ecademy.com, offer business-networking opportunities.  Just as with more traditional networking groups, you need to develop relationships of trust with online networks as well.  Other ways to network online include starting your own blog and emailing your company newsletters.

Not only do we recommend being active in three groups, but we would also suggest that they be three different types of groups.  For referral networking, we would suggest that a strong contact network is particularly important, along with two other groups of different types. If you go to weekly meetings of three groups, you will be spending somewhere between five and six hours per week in meetings, not counting contacts you make outside the meetings in order to follow up on referrals and attend to other group-oriented activities.  That’s a pretty good investment of time, and if you make full use of your networking groups and develop a fair number of relationships, you will probably have as much business as you can handle.

Taken from Truth or Delusion? Page 97 – 99  Online Networks would now be considered LinkedIn.

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