Is Networking About Quality Or Quantity?
What's important to you? The number of people at a business networking meeting or the quality of the attendees?
At the time of writing, there are over 40 networking groups running across Northamptonshire; pretty much covering each day of the week and any time of day – these groups vary from being very formal to being casual open networking groups and some in between. Some are weekly, others fortnightly, a number of them are monthly and there are also some ad hoc ones running at different frequencies. You also have a choice as to whether you join and pay a membership fee or whether the group is a pay as you go type. So, I think it is safe to say that there is a “quantity” to choose from when it comes to networking.
Having said that, with an estimated 25,000 small businesses operating across the county and only a small percentage of those businesses networking; my guess around 1-2%, even if double the amount of people came out of hiding and started networking, 40 current groups may not be enough!
So what about the quality of these groups?
Well I guess the only way to find out is to go along and see for yourself; to establish if the person running the group and the attendees work for you and your business – my feeling is that there are some mediocre to poor groups out there that do not do the term “networking” justice and may actually put people off trying another group. Don’t think all groups are the same, given the diversity of choice outlined above, there is probably a group that would work for you and not all of them can be classified as “just another bloody networking group“!
All I would say is don’t be pressurised to join at the first or second meeting if you attend such a group – I fail to understand why networking groups only give you one bite of the cherry to decide if the group is right for you – why would that be? Surely if a group is worth joining, then let people come along for 3 or 4 meetings or maybe try before you buy for 30 days and then, if it is a membership group, decide whether the fee is worth the investment.
Where quantity may play a part is in the number of attendees/members a networking group has – on the basis that you would like your message to be heard by as many potential clients or referrers as possible – a handful of people in a room every few weeks or so is not an encouraging sign and therefore you may want to consider the viability of such groups. Many networking groups have started but have not been sustainable either because of lack of numbers or there was nothing that distinguished them from the “pack“.