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Top 10 Business Networking Groups You Should Join

Strategy

One of the most common pieces of wisdom more experienced business people have shared with me is that business networking is the fast track to success.  It’s also one of the most commonly ignored pieces of advice.  That’s a shame, because that advice holds true.  People will do business with other people they know long before they’ll do business with people they find through an advertisement.

Business networking isn’t about making direct sales, though direct sales invariably occur as a result.  Rather, business networking gives you professional connections, establishes trust, and lends business through new opportunities, increased knowledge, and the ever-so-valuable word-of-mouth advertising.

Like many others, I was at first hesitant to join business networking groups.  First, I hate public speaking.  Second, I felt I wouldn’t be taken seriously – mostly because I was so nervous speaking in public.  Third, I found it difficult to justify the time investment required to network effectively; thinking instead that I was better off working and making money.  Still, a colleague convinced me to give a local BNI group a try, and I found that:

  • Nearly everyone is nervous speaking publicly, and
  • Rather than hold that against me, they were empathetic and willing to help me do so more effectively, and
  • I landed an amazing amount of business with minimal effort and next-to-nothing investment

Thus, I’m a huge proponent of business networking groups; and if you join the right organizations, you will be, too.  Here’s a list of my top 10 business networking groups you should join.

1. BNI – Business Networking International

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BNI is the world’s largest networking group, and one I highly recommend.  BNI operates on the philosophy of “giver’s gain,” in which the more referrals you give to fellow members, the more referrals will be given back to you.  BNI costs right around $400 per year; I clear about 20 times that investment every year from my membership alone.

2. MasterMind Groups

MasterMind groups bring people together for a shared goal, or shared set of goals, such as better business.  MasterMind groups allow you to tap into other perspectives, get support to achieve your goals, and create a level of accountability for taking action to do so.  Learn more about joining or starting a MasterMind group here.

3. LeTip

LeTip is smaller than BNI, but works off the same principle:  referrals instead of leads.  How do they differ?  A referral happens when someone you know gives you the name of someone they know who is already interested in buying from you.  The customer already trusts you, because their friend recommended you.  A lead is a cold call.  Which would you prefer to invest your time in pursuing?

4. Women In Business Networking

If you’re a business woman, don’t pass up an opportunity to join WIB.  Women In Business allows you to work with others to achieve your goals.  Being a man, I do not have personal involvement in WIB, but many of my women colleagues and clients swear by it.

5. Chamber of Commerce

OK, so almost everyone joins their local Chamber; but how active are you in it?  Do you attend meetings, volunteer for committees or otherwise play a role as an active member of the group?  If not, you’re undoubtedly missing local opportunities and connections that can propel your business.

6. CVB

Your local Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is tasked with catering to tourism, so if you do not own a business that likewise serves tourists you might not be a member.  Join anyway, and become active, for two reasons:  first, you’ll make local business connections that can lead to new business for you.  Second, an improved tourist industry means an improved local economy, which means more profits for you.

7. Local Merchant Associations

Be on the lookout for local trade, merchant and industry-specific associations you can join.  My area has a Young Professionals Association in which we meet monthly to listen to a business speaker.  That’s all good, but the true value of membership is realized over beers after the presentation, when we get to meet, discuss, network and grow.

8. Rotary

Rotary International is a service organization, but look at the membership list of your local chapter and you’ll see it’s packed with the movers and shakers you need to connect with to grow your business exponentially.

9. Kiwanis

Just like Rotary, Kiwanis is a service organization whose membership is often comprised of the “powers-that-be,” those people whose testimonials are iron-clad.  Join, get involved and reap the rewards.

10.Optimists

Optimists are another powerful group of service-oriented professionals.  Like the other groups mentioned here, don’t just show up and expect business referrals.  Show up, get involved and believe in the cause.  Over time, your reputation will be gold; and so will your bank account.

Comments on this Article: 3

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  1. Todd Davis says:

    You might also consider a similar type group, that is focused on passing referrals, Gold Star Referral Clubs. One of the biggest differences is that Gold Star is not a franchise, and offers members a monthly option to participate.

    The very best reason to consider Gold Star Clubs, is that if there isn’t a Club where you are, you can start your own Gold Star Club with our proven methods and training, and get compensated for being the “start up” Director that puts the group together.

    I’d be happy to answer questions. Please contact me through the website.

    Have a great 2013!
    Todd Davis
    National Director
    Gold Star Referral Clubs
    “More Business by Referrals!”

  2. Janel Bailey says:

    Xenos Hospitality is a relationship marketing organization with networks across Georgia and Arizona. Network memberships are available for small businesses, professionals and nonprofit organizations and provide a multitude of benefits such as regularly networking opportunities, multi-channel advertising and technology education.

    Xenos Hospitality is not exclusive to profession, but rather an elite group of local influencers within each community. Networking events are open to anyone who wants to attend, including newcomers seeking local connections for employment and quality-of-life resources.

    Membership and network information is available at http://www.xenoshospitality.com
    We also have Facebook pages for all of our networks. We are also seeking opportunities to open new markets across the United States.

    As the Founder and CEO, I invite you to join us anywhere, any time!

    Janel Bailey
    Queen of Connections
    Xenos Hospitality Inc.

  3. Shoshana Cuevas says:

    Successful salespeople connect with their customers – technology and social media have allowed us to broaden our prospect fields and reach larger markets. In the end, it’s about meeting with someone “face to face” and honoring your commitment to them. Networking puts a “face” on the available services. Great article!

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