Mass is not always better…

Just received one of the infamous culling invites from a local ‘network’ group. If you have never received one of these let first explain what it is before commenting on why professionals should think twice before sending one or accepting one.

So basically when a professional network group is run by a corporation numbers are their goal.  So they encourage their membersleadership-development to set aside time to mass invite to local professionals, challenges are delivered and pressure to deliver up on a silver plate at least fifteen others in a members network as recipients of these invites. These invites are impersonal and printed on generic paper to be mailed out to as many professionals as possible.  The hopes is to create a frenzy where industries will feel pressure that if they do not join one of their competitors who also received the copied letter will snatch up the coveted seat effectively locking them out of possible business opportunities.

Sound good so far? I mean what is not to like? An impersonal, mass invitation to a feeding frenzy where the fastest one to write a check receives a seat…  This is getting to be the standard for most ‘network’ style professional groups.

For our clients we always enjoy recommending ways they can get connected in their community for company visibility.  One of the ways we help them is in finding business groups they will benefit from being a member of.  It is our recommendation that no more than three groups per staff member should be attempted unless the business is a marketing/media company.  When choosing business groups to join it is a good idea to select a variety for better exposure as well as personal business growth benefit.

There are at least six types of business organizations to consider joining in order to develop your business through networking. Depending on your time constraints, select only two or three groups for participation. However – and this is critical, no matter what groups you end up participating in – remember you will get out of it what you put into it. If you join only to receive you will fall short of the actual benefits that are available to those that join to first bring a value to the group they become a part of.

  • ‘Network’ community style group like: Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, or if just starting out look into a Toastmasters
  • Industry specific groups like: American Society of Personnel Administrators, American Bar Association, American Advertising Federation, American Medical Association, Home Builders, Certified Life Underwriters Association, Professional Women Association…
  • Social/Business Organizations like: Jaycees, Women Leagues, Optimist Club, Junior Achievement, Business Innovation Groups
  • Community and Charitable Organizations like: Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc, Children’s Advocacy, Veterans Clubs, American Red Cross, Community Care Organizations, Girl/Boy Scouts
  • Hobby Style Clubs like: Kayaking America, Parks and Recreation Groups, Animation and Illustration Clubs, Music Matters Organization, Communications Clubs, Artist of America, Astronomical Society, Journalist Club, Arts Alliance
  • Business Professional groups like: (Ones designed around education and profit) Dale Carnegie Groups, Business Networking International, National Association of Professionals, Power Connectors Group (A-Team), NFP, NAPW, American Marketing Professionals, Entrepreneurs’ Organization

Lost in crowdThese are just a few as every community has their own groups as well as state and national groups.  Visiting before deciding is key to joining a group, club, organization that will be mutually beneficial as is considering the following.

  • When visiting did you feel welcomed? Ask yourself is this my tribe?
  • If you received an invitation to a group was it hand written showing that they consider you a value and not just one of a mass of fish they were trying to net?
  • Did the members express a genuine interest in you – your industry before handing you an application?
  • Is there a qualifying process and if not you might want to consider if you will actually benefit the level you are looking to achieve.
  • Do you know the expectations and even more important can you meet them?
  • After attending a meeting did the connections continue in the way of members reaching out to you or did you get white noise that comes from an out of site out of mind mentality?
  • Are you able to contribute as much as you will gain from the membership?
  • If it is a professional business group will it challenge you?
  • If it is a charitable group consider what would match your business best – community or national reach
  • If it is an industry specific group do they have a good mix of complementary businesses that will gain you clients or is it only members in your direct industry? You1
  • Ask the members what do they like the most about the group
  • If it is a hobby group are they open to the occasional shop talk?
  • Is the structure organized and ran in a way that shows they respect the members time?
  • Are there hidden costs or extra charges for values needed to benefit fully?
  • Do they provide promotional resources or acknowledgment list of current members showing they value contributions?
  • When they cultivate new members are they all about the numbers or the value of the members?
  • Do they do what they say and say what they mean? Meaning do the members believe in and actively practice the mission of the group?

Despite all that is mentioned above, there are many more things you should consider before joining groups. Yes, it requires more than an agreement and on occasion a check.  If you are going to devote time, arguably our most precious commodity, to a resource outside of your business it is highly recommended you put some thought and research into finding one that will complement your goals and values. It is not always a right or wrong way but more of a knowing what you need, if anything out of a group, that will help you choose the best fit.

cold calling1On the flip side some people tell me they simply don’t have time to go to business meetings regularly. I understand that objection well. If you feel this way, let me suggest that you stop reading this blog, pick up your telephone and start making cold calls instead. Or, if you prefer, open your pocketbook and start writing checks for more advertising.

If you’re serious about developing word-of-mouth business, there is no quick fix; you must meet people in a planned and structured way.  You need to research groups and select ones that have purpose and meaning. Be willing to give of your time, talents and resources. Select ones that value you as an individual and not just another rich fish in the net caught by a impersonal printed copy of an invitation to join.  Only those that ‘get it’ and work the memberships like an extension of their business will achieve levels that others envy. ~K.Kirkland