Networking: Have a plan
Networking is work. Really! If you expect to reap maximum benefits from attending and joining a networking organization, it requires more than just showing up, passing out as many business cards as possible and collecting cards from fellow attendees.
To be effective, you must start with a strategic networking plan which boils down to being a part of your overall marketing-sales plan for the year.
To develop your networking roadmap, first you will need to evaluate what you overall objective will be. A few questions that will help you determine your expected outcome includes:
- What is my reason for networking? Write down as many criteria that you can identify.
- Make synergy partner connections?
- Find more qualified prospects?
- A need to find educational opportunities?
- What groups fit my ideal networking profile?
- Are the members of the same professional level or higher up than I am?
- Do the industries represented fit my need for a prospective client base?
- Are the membership maintenance requirements conducive to my schedule?
- What will be expected of me as an active member?
- What alternatives are available if I am unable to be in attendance?
- What do I have to bring to the table?
- Will my leadership talents, mentoring expertise be of use to the leadership team or other members.
- Will I have leadership opportunities?
- What is the overall Return on Investment (ROI) for membership in the group?
- What are the hard costs of membership? Dues: national/local, meals, etc.
- What will it cost me in time commitment? Time to get back and forth to the meetings, length of the meetings, time to participate in any additional extracurricular activities associated with membership of the organization.
- Are there any hidden hard or soft costs associated with involvement as a member?
These are only a few questions that you should be asking yourself as you evaluate the usefulness of a prospective networking group.
Once you have identified not only the details and expectations of joining a networking group but also all of the hard and soft costs of membership, then you are ready to start shopping around to see if there is a local group that fits your requirements.
Next, attend numerous groups as well as several meetings of each group before you make a final decision to join. Interview several of the members to see what their ROI has been. Offer to buy the leadership a cup of coffee to explore how you would fit into the organization.
Finally, when you have conducted all of your research, then you will be ready to make an informed decision as to which group is a good fit for you. After you have made your final decision, re-evaluate your ROI every quarter to make sure you are still meeting the original objectives of your networking plan.
Peggy P. Edge © 2016