I’m spending some time at the moment reviewing 2015 and planning for 2016. One of the things I want to get a handle on is return on investment for the various networking groups I belong to.
The cost of belonging to these organisations is actually quite a lot, especially when you consider the time and travel investment as well (which you should).
I’ve always been a big proponent of networking. I really enjoy it and BNI was integral to the growth of my last business with a tangible financial return. Some of the people I’ve met through networking groups have become lifelong friends and so the relationships that networking fosters can be invaluable and hard to put a figure on.
With my change of industry category this year, from bookkeeping to business coach, the financial returns have been less than I would have hoped for so far. But given that I’ve had great success in the past from networking I suspect that I’ve not been clear in portraying my value message this year with my new business. So it’s up to me to do things differently.
In researching this subject online I was interested to come across this article written by Dr. Ivan Meisner, the founder of BNI. It gives some interesting data which says that the longer you stay in the group the greater your returns are with each year.
I consider also that sometimes peoples’ expectations of networking groups are unrealistic.It’s about relationship building and to do that you have to do more than just come along each week and eat your breakfast. Meet members outside the meetings and find out more about them, pass referrals with no expectations of immediate returns. Give of yourself first. People need to know, like and trust you in order to refer business to you, and that can take some time.
To recap, my top 3 tips for successful networking are:
- It’s not about you! – I tend to ask lots of questions about the other person and their business and I listen carefully with an ear as to how I might be able to help them whether that be by referring them to someone they can do business with or to someone who can help them. I’m naturally curious and people like to talk about themselves.
- Giver’s Gain – this is BNI’s tagline and I think it sums it up nicely. It’s about the law of attraction or karma or the age-old adage “what goes around comes around.” Whateve makes sense to you but there’s no denying this philosophy has stood the test of time. What you give out will come back to you. Not necessarily from the same person who you gave to, and often from a direction that you couldn’t have conceived of.
- Be likeable – People do business, and refer business, to people they know, like and trust. Check your egos at the door, smile, be pleasant, and be interested.
I will stay committed to my current networking memberships, namely BNI and Venus, for at least another year, probably more. I’m finding them rewarding in a number of ways.
But it’s very worthwhile asking yourself periodically what you’re getting from your membership (bearing in mind that the answer may not always be tangible results but intangible which in themselves make it worth the investment), and ask yourself what you can do to improve that return on investment. It’s usually up to you.