How to Commit to a Networking Group: 3 Reliable Criteria
Ah, the life of a business coach. I get asked all the time “Should I do x, y, or z?” I get it, decisions are hard. I’m here to help with them! If you’re not up for a private session, but you’re deciding whether to join a networking group, this is the article for you! Networking groups, chambers of commerce, and other professional organizations come with membership fees. Let’s decide if they’re worth it!
Networking groups come in many flavors. Some are show-up-if/when-you-can. Others require you or a substitute-you be in attendance. Some meet weekly, monthly, or sporadically. Some are free to attend, have a per-event fee, or a monthly or annual fee that you pay regardless of how many times you attend. Not to mention, does it meet at a before-work time? Over lunch? Mid-afternoon? Evening? So many possibilities!
But if you’re reading this article it’s probably because you’ve already got one in mind. You know those details and are already considering them. The key question here is: will I get value from being a member that is equal to or greater than the fee.
Can I Afford This?
No group is so make-it-or-break-it that you should join if you can’t afford it. But what can/can’t you afford? This is gonna take a couple of key data points: how much your business earns, and how much your business spends. (Where business spending excludes your pay and taxes.) Most accounting software will readily produce this in a report called a “Profit & Loss” or “Income” Statement. A bank statement can also work. Aim for the timeframe to be the same for both pieces of information. If you have the option, select a “typical” or year-long time period, but the point of this is a quick-and-dirty assessment so use what’s easy.
Divide your spending by your revenue to get a percent. If it’s over 30% do not add this expense without removing some comparable expense. If it’s under 20%, then you’re not spending much on your business which could be hindering its growth. If the networking group isn’t worth it, then I’d encourage investing in something to support your business! Between 20% & 30%… it’s ambiguous and we should examine the other factors to see if it’s really worth it.
Is it Worth it?
Finances are only one part of the picture. After all, you could spend that membership fee in another way! If you’re going to spend it this way, then it should be worth it! Here’s how I tell if it’s “worth it.” This group should meet at least two of the following criteria:
- You enjoy going to meetings and the group of people you’re with during meetings. (This includes that meetings happen at times you’re available and enjoy being awake.)
- You get something out of the meetings merely by attending. (e.g. motivation, insight, camaraderie, etc.)
- You get connections to peers & prospective clients
Most business owners get caught up with the last one. It’s not enough for a networking group to only provide clients. You’re investing not just money, but your time. It’s not worth it if it’s not meeting at least 2 of those criteria!
Getting listed on their website is purposefully not on that list. Yes, getting listed on the local Chamber’s website will undoubtedly have a positive impact on your SEO. It’s just that an SEO bump is not equal in value to common fees for these groups. The true value of these groups comes from the interpersonal relationships you can gain. That will lead to business and not just web traffic.
Finding Networking Groups
Wanna get in on all this networking, but don’t know where to start? Here’s a quick guide:
- Find a local chapter of BNI
If you have entrepreneurial friends, they might be able to guest you in to check out their chapter. Or, use BNI’s handy find a chapter tool.
- Find a local chamber of commerce
Google “chamber of commerce” or “business in” and your city name. In larger cities replace your city name with a neighborhood, ethnicity, or identity. You might find there’s a business group focused specifically on that area. If your business isn’t restrained by geography, feel free to look outside the bounds to find a group you like. (For example, I’ve discovered that I enjoy the events at the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce!)
- Search MeetUp or Eventbrite
Networking has got to be one of the most prolific event types on these sites. Not every search result will be a good fit, but there will be options!
- Check professional organizations for your industry
If you don’t know of one off the top of your head, search for “professional organization for” and your industry. You’ll probably find one. They probably throw events. And you might even enjoy them. You’ll only know if you try it out!
Maggie’s VIP List
- Seattle Entrepreneur Networking Community (SENC)
This group focuses on creating genuine relationships with people from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Their events are low-key and usually well attended while not being too many people.
- Coffee Tawk
Based in a Facebook group but with virtual events too. This group is self-described as a place for sassy-mouthed womxn and femme business owners to let it all hang out.
- Introvert-Friendly Network (IFN)
These uniquely designed online events save participants from large crowds and constantly-on video cameras. Great for introverts and extroverts alike!
Originally published at https://www.maggiekarshner.com on May 19, 2022.