One of the most common pieces of wisdom more experienced business people have shared with me is that business networking groups can be a 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.
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 about speaking publicly;
- 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 such groups; and if you join the right organizations, you will be, too.
Keep reading to discover my top 10 examples of business network and find your favorite.
Let’s get started!
What Are Business Networking Groups?
Business networking groups are organizations or forums where professionals from various fields come together to establish and nurture business relationships, share information, and support each other’s business endeavors.
These groups can be industry-specific or diverse, and they often provide a platform for members to exchange referrals, advice, and experiences.
The primary goal of such groups is to foster connections that can lead to new business opportunities, partnerships, and mutual growth.
Here are some key aspects you should consider:
- Meetings and Events: These groups typically organize regular meetings or events, which can be weekly, monthly, or at other intervals. These gatherings are opportunities for members to interact, discuss business trends, and share leads or referrals.
- Membership: Membership can be open to all or might be restricted based on certain criteria like industry, experience, or business size. Some groups require a membership fee, while others are free or sponsored by business associations or chambers of commerce.
- Referral Sharing: A core activity in many business networking groups is the exchange of referrals. Members recommend each other’s services or products to their contacts, helping to expand business opportunities within the network.
- Professional Development: Many groups also focus on the professional development of their members through workshops, guest speakers, and training sessions. These activities aim to enhance business skills and knowledge.
- Online and Offline Platforms: While traditional networking business clubs meet in person, the rise of digital technology has led to the growth of online networking platforms. These can be dedicated websites, social media groups, or forums where professionals connect, share, and collaborate virtually.
- Community Involvement: Some networking groups engage in community service or local development projects, which can enhance the group’s visibility and reputation in the community.
- Diverse Networking Opportunities: Business networking groups can vary greatly in their focus and structure. Some are very formal, with structured agendas and roles, while others are more casual and social.
- Global and Local Networks: While some networking groups operate on a global or national level, offering a wide range of connections, others are more localized, focusing on building strong relationships within a specific community or region.
Joining a business networking group can be a strategic move for professionals looking to expand their business, gain new insights, and build a supportive community of like-minded individuals.
Top 10 Business Networking Groups
Business networking groups aren’t about making direct sales, though direct sales invariably occur as a result.
Rather, these networking business culbs provide you with professional connections, establish trust, and lend business through new opportunities, increased knowledge, and valued word-of-mouth advertising.
So, here’s a list of my top 10 business networking groups you should join.
1. BNI – Business Networking International
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 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.
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 businesswoman, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Harnessing the Power of Online Business Networking Groups
If you’re still uncertain about joining a business networking group, then maybe you might be interested in online groups instead.
In today’s digital age, not all networking has to be done face-to-face, and online groups can prove to be powerful platforms for professionals to connect, share, and grow together, irrespective of geographical boundaries.
The essence of networking remains the same, whether it’s done in person or online: it’s about building genuine relationships and using these connections to achieve your professional goals.
However, online business networking groups bring an added layer of convenience and accessibility that traditional networking forums may lack.
So in case you want to network remotely, here are 3 of the best groups you can join:
1. StartUp Nation
Delve into the vibrant ecosystem of StartUp Nation, a haven for budding entrepreneurs.
It’s not just a website, but a community where knowledge meets ambition.
The StartUpNation community is a goldmine of insights waiting to be discovered, answering those burning questions that keep you up at night.
Zerply is your gateway to a niche world of creative minds in film, games, and VR/AR.
It’s where your creative pulse finds its rhythm, amidst a network of individuals who speak the language of innovation.
3. Opportunity Network
Imagine a realm where collaboration brews effortlessly.
Opportunity Network is that realm, with a matchmaking algorithm that’s your catalyst in finding the right business professionals for project collaborations or simply expanding your network.
In summary, the importance of business networking groups in fostering professional growth and success is undeniable.
These groups offer a unique blend of opportunities for referrals, skill development, and community engagement.
Whether you choose traditional in-person meetings or online platforms, the essence of networking remains the same: it’s about making meaningful connections that can propel both your personal and professional life forward.
Embracing the potential of these groups could be a pivotal step in your career or business journey.