All of us network to build our business.

But networking is NOT a one size fits all.

Networking can mean at least three different activities:

1. Getting referrals that will lead to new clients or customers

2. Getting new information or ideas on how to better manage and grow your business

3. Getting support and purpose with fellow business owners

1. This type of networking usually means getting a group together to share leads in some manner.  This use of networking can be effective, but only if the group respects each other’s work and trusts that they can deliver.  This is important as respect and trust take time; often achieved by personal experience. Along with trust and respect, you want to find a group with members whose personal network have people who are in your target market. Go into this type of networking when you have the time to devote to cultivate relationships.

2. Think of this kind of networking like you might a class, webinar or a blog post.  The goal is to come away with information that you can use right away.  To be effective, given the time limitations of most business owners, it needs to be on a single topic, and led by someone knowledgeable in that subject area. Before going to this kind of networking event, I suggest you look for the planned “take away” so you can determine if you’ll really get something of value to you.

3. Being a member of a group where you’re welcomed, supported and encouraged can leave you inspired to go back to your business with new purpose. Getting guidance on a challenging issue can make this kind of networking invaluable.  Without direction, however, it can turn into a series of “war stories” which don’t necessarily motivate you. For this kind of group to help its members, there needs to be someone serving as a facilitator so the responses to an individual’s situation remain on track.

Which kind of Networking Group should you join? Perhaps all of them at one time or another.
My advice is to really look into any that you are considering and see if what they offer is what you really need.