How many businesses out there are in need of referrals? I don´t know of too many business owners who would say "I don´t need another client today."?¿ Whether you are an insurance salesperson or a dog groomer, networking (or referral) groups will work for your business!
Most networking groups meet at least once a week, at a specified location for either breakfast, lunch, or an after-hour social event. Typically, you will pay an annual fee and the cost of your meal each week.
The way that most networking groups function is you arrive and have about 15 minutes of social time, followed by a structured hour including an opportunity for each person to stand and give a sixty-second presentation on their business. During the hour either a key-note speaker will give a presentation or a couple of people from the group will get up and give an in-depth presentation on their business. At the end of the meeting, everyone is given the opportunity to pass and to receive referrals.
The intention of these groups is to get to know people, buy products from them, have them provide services to you, get to know them. You will then be able to make a referral based on the fact that you have gotten to know and trust these people. You end up becoming friends with some people and you trust them. How many of you would refer someone out of the yellow pages without knowing them or seeing their work?
Another wonderful facet of these groups is having on-on-one hourly meetings during the week where you each have an opportunity to share in-depth detail about your business. This is most beneficial to everyone in the group making the passing of referrals so much more real because you actually know something about how they run their business.
You must visit several different groups to find one that fits the needs of your business, in part because there can only be one category in each group, i.e. one mortgage broker, on real estate agent, etc. Some groups might have categories that would not complement your business, yet others will.
I belong to a national group, Business Network International,http://www.bni.com. In our group we have a real estate agent, a mortgage broker, a website designer, a massage therapist, a chiropractor, a doctor of oriental medicine, a CPA, and a financial planner just to name a few. Different groups have different professions, and again, you just have to visit a few to find which group is right for you and your needs. I also belong to my local Chamber of Commerce, which is another wonderful resource for business.
For women in particular, there are so many wonderful opportunities for networking. In my hometown, once a month during the evenings there are at least four groups that I know of. You might be able to find these national groups in your hometown as well: American Business Women´s Association, http://www.abwahq.org/ or National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) http://www.nawbo.org/.
Take a look at the business section of your local newspaper or look in the yellow pages for groups in your area. Call the person listed as the contact and ask to be a guest. Make sure you take plenty of business cards with you to pass out. You will be able to visit a couple of times without joining but then must make a decision on joining if you wish to return. Get out there, get to know some people, and have fun with it!
“Success is often the result of taking a misstep in the right direction.” ~ Al Bernstein