Different Types of Networking Groups
Each week, there are dozens of networking events going on around town. Each one offers an opportunity to meet people, develop business relationships, and exchange leads. Which type of networking meeting should you attend? This article explains some of the differences between these groups.
Closed Networking Groups
Closed networking groups include Business Network International, Freedom Builders, Networking Works, and Powercore, among others. Although each group has its own format and procedures, closed networking groups allow only one member from each type of business to attend, and each member is expected to bring business leads for the other members.
For example, if you are a mortgage broker, you will only be able to join a closed networking group if there are no other mortgage brokers who are members. The benefit of this is that every member of the group who knows someone who needs a mortgage will refer the lead to you.
The typical closed networking group meets weekly, and each member is expected to attend every meeting. During the meeting, each member has an opportunity to briefly tell the others about their business, and the type of lead that they are looking for. One or two members will be able to explain their business in more detail, typically for five to ten minutes. There may be some training on networking skills or business development, and, of course, members pass leads to one another.
This format ensures that each member has a good understanding of the other members businesses. Each member becomes a "virtual salesperson" for all the other members.
Most closed networking groups encourage visitors to attend their meetings, and see if the group would be a good fit for their business. Visitors will be able to attend two or three meetings before they are required to join. If the group already has a member in the same business, you will be referred to another one of the group's meetings where your profession is not represented.
Open Networking Groups
When you attend a Chamber of Commerce event or a Business Association meeting, you are participating in an open networking group. These groups are open to anyone who wants to join, which means that there can be several members in the same profession. Most of these groups are organized to promote business within a specific geographical area.
Open networking groups tend to be less formal than the closed networking groups. Many groups meet in a Business After Hours format, where one member hosts the meeting, and members network informally. There may also be business meetings, and lead sharing meetings with a format similar to the meetings of closed networking groups.
To get the most from an open networking group, regular attendance at meetings is important. Because most meetings offer a limited opportunity for each member to explain his or her business to all the other members, members must take the responsibility for meeting other members, and learning about their businesses. On the other hand, the less-structured format of a Business After Hours allows members to spend extra time with each other.
Don't forget the other types of networking opportunities available to you. Organizations including the Lion's Club, Jaycees, and Toastmasters are not dedicated to lead sharing, but offer an opportunity to meet people who might be able to refer prospects for your business. Similarly, school, sports and religious organizations offer opportunities to meet a wide variety of people in a non-business situation.