If you think networking is one-size-fits-all you would be wrong. All networking can be successful but not for the same reasons and not for all people. When evaluating networking I look for three key things: Family, Focus, & Fit.
Family is what I feel is the most important. The key is, do you feel comfortable in the presence of these people? Are you welcomed, do you like them, will you be happy to be in this location with these people several times a month for years? Does the location feel like a place you would feel comfortable bringing your clients? It’s like choosing a home. You are going to spend a lot of time and money to work this networking group so you had better be sure these are the people you want to spend your time with.
Is this group focused on generating business to the same level you are? What is the focus of the group and what do you expect to get out of being with the group. In my first networking group I was focused on becoming a more confident, credible business owner. I surrounded myself with long-time, successful business owners and I got exactly what I was focused on. When I changed my focus to reaching a global market I had to change my networking group.
Does you networking group fit your needs? I have a great tool that I use to evaluate a lot of different types of decisions. When I was young and looking for a job I went to the HRSDC for resume training. The counselor took me through an evaluation and I have used it for every large decision I make, like going into business for myself. Let me share it with you for networking.
1. Start by listing your values
Make a list of the values that are so important to your life and your business that they must be the things that are not adversely affected by a bad choice. For networking I have these six values listed.
- It cannot significantly affect my time with my children
- Low travel time
- Must be able to connect with my target market
- Must be filled with business focused people
- They must have access to a global community
- I must have opportunities to speak to my target market through the network
2. List Your Networking Choices
Create a list of all the options you have available to you. Reduce the list to the three or four you really like. For my example I have Choice A, B, & C. I have put some of the details of these three choices for you to understand the outcome.
3. Create an Evaluation Matrix
I know it sounds ominous but it is really easy. Put your values across the top and your top 3 choices down the side. Now evaluate your selection based on how it affects your values. I used a scale of 0-4 where 0 is the worst choice of the three and 3 is the best choice of the three. A value of 4 was beyond my expectations.
Note that Choice B, even though it requires much more travel time, rates almost twice as high as Choice A and almost 3 times as high as Choice C. I now have a scale that tells me how aligned with my target values a networking group choice will be. This is really important if you don’t want to spend years trying to work a group that is just not in line with your needs.
If you want networking to help create business for you through successful marketing then you have to choose wisely. Find the family, know theirs and your focus, and make sure it is the right fit for your values. This way you will be more engaged to create the income you need in your business and you will enjoy doing it.