Helping business owners with mental health issues, Start Small but Dream Big
6 of the best networking organisations
As covered in a previous article, networking should be a key part of your marketing strategy, whatever stage your business is at. It is not only a cheap and effective way of getting new business, but also learning from others in similar situations. There are numerous networking organisations. Some are regional, some national, and some international. Here we look at six of the best.
International networking organisations
BNI – www.bni.com/
The BNI – or Business Networking International – is the largest networking group in the world. It was founded in 1984 and has since grown to include 211,000 members, across 7,800 chapters.
The BNI works on the principles of a structured, professional referral scheme, with a focus on long-term business relationships between respected professionals. There is a real focus on referrals, and in 2016 alone, referrals between members generated revenue of $11.2 billion.
Chapters usually hold weekly meetings, which last 90 minutes and are structured. They allow just one person from any industry to join a chapter, so that members are not competing for business. Members are also encouraged to meet outside of chapter meetings to further develop their business relationships.
There is an annual membership fee, and some chapters have additional fees for room hire, refreshments etc. Members can miss three meetings in any six month period, but may send a representative in their place if necessary.
BoB Clubs – www.bobclubs.com/
BoB, or Business Over Breakfast, is also an international networking group which was founded in 2004. As the name suggests, meetings take place early in the morning, before normal working hours, and groups have up to 35 members.
Meetings are fortnightly, and members are given 60-90 seconds to give an ‘elevator’ pitch about their business. At each meeting, one member is allocated ten minutes to hold a ‘Showcase’ presentation about their business and themselves. They also encourage members to meet up outside of meetings.
There is no requirement to attend every meeting, although they recommend that a substitute is sent if you are unable to make one to ensure consistency. There is a registration fee when you first join, and an annual fee, plus the cost of breakfast.
UK networking organisations
Forum of Private Business –www.fpb.org/
The Forum of Private Business (FPB) organises breakfast networking meetings at a very low cost to businesses who join the organisation. Membership includes other benefits such as legal advice, access to discounted services, template forms and official documents, and other support, at a very reasonable rate.
Women in Business Network – www.wibn.co.uk
As the name suggests, this network supports women in business to develop their businesses. They meet on a monthly basis between 12.00-2.00pm. Meetings are structured and take place over lunch. As with other groups, only one person per industry is able to join.
USA networking organisations
LeTip International – letip.com/
If you’re located in the USA, then LeTip is a well-known networking group. Founded in 1978, it is considered the original business networking group. The emphasis is very much on referrals, and members are expected to attend weekly with at least one qualified referral.
Gold Star Referral Clubs – www.goldstarreferralclubs.com
Gold Star Referral Clubs operate on a more informal basis. Members can attend as many or as few meetings as they like, both for their own group and others, as long as there is no-one else in the same industry. Meetings are usually around an hour long, and group leaders change every six months to keep groups feeling fresh.
Attending a group
The websites for each of these networks list the contact details of the local groups. If there is one that interests you, contact the group leader to ask if you would be able to attend. As many allow just one person from any industry, you may not be able to, so it is best to check first. Also ask what businesses the members have. It may be that the type of industries represented will limit your opportunities for picking up business.
Ask if you can attend as a visitor before committing, and how many times. Different groups have different ways of working and different dynamics, so attend as many meetings as you can as a visitor before choosing one or two to commit to. This guide from AndrewAndPete.com provides some great tips on finding the right group for you.
So now you know why you should be networking, and how to find a group, all you need to know is how to make the most of your interactions. We will discuss this in the next article.
Start Small – Dream Big is the blog for small business owners managing mental health conditions – wherever they are in their journey.