Different groups have very distinct focuses and if you are going to network, it helps to understand the groups and how to make the most of them.
Leads Groups - The focus is on providing leads to other businesses and them providing leads to you. Most often you will have exclusive representation of your business within the group (the only chiropractor or the only plumber). Example: Business Networking International (BNI)
Service Organizations - The focus is on building a long term relationship and giving back to your community. Example: Rotary International
Trade Associations - Industry groups that are often focused on advertising, education and influencing policy. Example: National Pork Producers Council
Professional Associations - Similar to industry groups, but are focused on a type of profession. Example: Society for Human Resource Management
Location or Demographic based business groups - A group of businesses that network based on criteria that either are determined by the location (city) or by a demographic (gender, ethnicity). The focus of the group is typically to create a more positive environment for all the business within that area. Example: Chamber of Commerce
Some other questions to ask to find the right fit
- Is there a member directory? Is it online?
- What kind of education do they provide?
- What are the opportunities during meetings to introduce yourself and your business? To everyone or just those sitting close to you?
- What is the financial commitment?
- What are other ways you can showcase your business?
- How long is the path to leadership?
- Does this group have sub-groups and what is the benefit of getting involved in those?
- How long do members stay enrolled?
- How many members are active and attend meetings?