I’m still staggered by the closeness of the Adelaide business networks – there seems to be about one degree of separation between people! It’s an extremely connected city, which is great for referrals and networking. The phrase “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” has never been as important to me since setting up Breathe Marketing eight years ago.
There are many ways of increasing your number of business contacts. Joining a networking group can be useful – IF you do your homework and find the right fit.
What kinds of groups are out there?
There are a wide variety of networking and business groups available, ranging from ‘casual contact’ networks such as Chambers of Commerce (Business SA) to ‘strong contact’ networks and professional associations (usually within an industry, such as medicine, law, accounting, etc.). There are also community service clubs (such as Rotary and JCI Australia) and social/business organisations.
Being clear on your overall goal will help you choose the right group. For instance, if you’re looking to make contacts or gain knowledge within your own industry, an industry association may be a good choice. However, if you’re primarily focused on building your business and finding new clients, you’ll probably want to seek out a group that allows you to meet people in other industries and provides a good structure for referrals (like BNI Australia).
Tips for choosing the right organisation
Before joining any network or making any kind of financial commitment, it’s important to do some homework and ask a few questions to determine if joining a group is the right move for you and your business:
- Are they legit? – In the case of a Chamber of Commerce or a professional organisation like the Law Society, you won’t need to worry about whether the group is legitimate or not. However, other groups claiming to be “business networking groups” may not provide the kind of contacts and serious business interaction you’re seeking. Ask around and do some online research.
- Talk to members – If you already know business colleagues or others in the group – or if someone you know recommended that you join – ask them about their overall experience. Have they got any good contacts or referrals out of it? Do they find the meetings worthwhile? Is it worth the investment (both in terms of time and membership fees)?
- Do the maths – Most networks require some kind of fee to be a member. Look carefully at any upfront costs and determine how much new work you’d need to win to make the costs worth it. What’s your breakeven point?
- The bigger picture – Keep in mind that when joining any of these groups, you’re going to have to make an investment of time as well as money. Not only will you be attending regular meetings, but if you join any committees or make follow-up contacts or appointments with members, you’ll need time for that, too. How much time away from your office will you need to budget – and can you afford it?
Once you’ve done your research and decided to join a specific group, you’ll want to make sure you’re making the most of your time in meetings. In my next blog, I’ll talk more about how to get the most out of attending networking events.
If you can’t wait that long (!) contact Breathe Marketing today to discuss how you can get more out of networking.