by Tracy Jensen | Featured Contributor
When you are trying to grow your business, your network is critical, and not just to gain clients. The people you meet in these groups, whether virtual or in person, can help you brainstorm, innovate, critique and connect you with valuable resources.
However, membership and event fees quickly add up, as can the amount of time you are dedicating to these groups. The best approach? Vet your organizations carefully before committing for a year. Here are a few things to consider to narrow your focus:
1. Consider your goals. What are you looking to get from your time with this organization? Clients? Expertise in growing your business? Vendors? Speaking opportunities? Consider the type of support you want from any forum and critique from that lens.
2. Watch their channels first. Sign up for their newsletter or review archives. Monitor their social channels on the platforms where you live. Review the information offered, their tone, how they interact and their accessibility.
3. Review their calendar. Do they consistently provide the types of opportunities your seeking? Does your schedule align with their calendar? Do they meet at venues you can easily afford and get to?
4. Go to a meeting (or test drive their forum). Any group can look great on paper but when you walk into the room – or discussion board – it can quickly become apparent that it isn’t your tribe. Recognize that it’s perfectly okay and don’t try to force a fit. Only join organizations whose interactions make you feel confident and empowered.
5. Remember that size isn’t everything. While it is easy to be drawn to large groups and well-known brands, don’t assume you will get what you need. Consider the requirements. Larger organizations often require sub-committee attendance, which can provide fantastic opportunities – but only if you have the amount of time necessary. Make sure to consider how easy it will be to create meaningful relationships with those relevant to your business.
The right organizations can be a fantastic source of support and motivation. Have fun!
What else do you consider before joining a networking group? Where have you found the best opportunities?
Tracy Jensen is Founder and CEO of Frizz Marketing, a Chicago-based marketing firm. Tracy has over 15 years of experience in communications, branding and community outreach. Through Frizz, her focus is helping small businesses and nonprofits extract their central identity and voice, cultivating compelling and authentic content. Her specialties are strategy, email marketing and content creation.
Equally content in front of a group as she is typing from her home office, Tracy has spoken on a variety of topics from social media to fundraising tactics. As a writer, she has contributed to a range of platforms, including BlogHer, EverydayFamily, Mamalode, Scary Mommy, and BonBon Break.
A single mother to two, Tracy believes the only limitations to success are the voices within our own heads. When in doubt, fresh air, a good cup of coffee and a book can cure just about anything.