Adam1.31.15Just how many networking groups should you belong to? I would contend that it is not as many as you think. As the Executive Director of the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn, I get flooded with invitations to join various groups to network. Some of those groups are sincere while others are simply looking to boost their numbers.

Here are some tips on what networking groups you should join and what to do once you join:

1. Is it a group you are interested in?

This seems like a simplistic, perhaps even obvious question. The fact remains that if you are joining a group that you have no interest in but simply to make sales, don’t even waste your or your employer’s money. Members of the group will see right through you, you’ll make no sales and in six months, you’ll be blaming the group for your lack of sales instead of the real person you should be blaming… yourself.

2. Get to know people before you seek your sale.

People really don’t care that you sell insurance. I know 20 other people who sell insurance. People don’t really care that you are with XYZ Bank and have free checking, so do the 15 other banks who belong to the group. I don’t care what you do, but I do care why you do it. Why did you get into brokering energy? Why did you decide to start your home inspection business? Why did you decide to open that barber shop? I’m not going to do anything with you until I get to know you. When the time is right, we’ll have that meaningful conversation on how we might partner.

3. Networking is not a numbers game, it’s a referral game.

Probably the biggest mistake that I see people make in networking is that they go out to as many different networking groups as they can, trying to meet as many people as they can and collecting as many business cards as they can. My approach is different. I have two groups where I am “all in.” My goal is to get to know people in these groups on a personal level and then to be able to refer business to them. When this is my only objective, I find that people also refer business to me. I’m not saying you should eliminate the cold calls, but I have found that customers who come to me as a referral turn out to be the most loyal and dedicated customers.

4. How many networking groups is the “right” number?

That really depends on a few factors:

  • How large are the groups?
  • Do the groups “make sense” to you? Meaning, are there natural partnership opportunities that you think might exist once you get to know people.
  • Do you have a genuine interest in the group?
  • How much of a time commitment does joining the group require and how much time are you willing to invest into the group?

My advice is to start with one group and go deep into it. Rather than scratch the surface on five different groups, get fully invested into one and see what happens. I take the approach that networking is not about what I can get, but, rather, what I can give.

Networking and referrals from your networks will take time. It isn’t something that is usually a quick ROI. But, if done correctly, and if you have patience, the journey can introduce you to a lot of people who you didn’t already know. And, as I have learned, there is a solid ROI awaiting you as your journey progresses.