Networking Groups – cont.

When you go to a presentation or seminar on networking you may get the impression that most networking groups are just people like you trying to build up a new business.  The people you meet at these networking groups are there to learn something new, and tend to be young.  However if you go to a regular networking event or join a networking organization you will find out that many of the people there tend to be older, established business people. In the typical business networking group the members range in age form 20s to 60s, with about 2/3 of them being over 40.  There is a good reason for this.  It is usually the seasoned professionals who have recognized and learned to use the benefits of networking to their advantage.  These are the people that have used networking throughout the their business life and are fully aware of the competitive advantage it offers.  Older networkers often become mentors for younger business people, which is a huge leg up for someone new to the skill of networking.

The best networking groups are the ones whose membership is diverse.  Those groups will not only have people ranging in age, but also a good balance of men and women, a mixture of races and ethnicities representative in the local community, and varied professions.  Such groups offer the best opportunities to get referrals from outside your immediate circle of experience, which then puts you on the fast track to expanding your business.

Customers can be a good source of referrals, so why do you need networking groups?  Well a happy client may talk you up to a friend who needs the service you provide, but it often ends there.  A customer who is merely satisfied is not likely to go out of their way to tell others about your business.  Of course bad news travels faster than good news; a customer who is unhappy with you will tell a lot of people, up to eleven times as many as a happy customer.  Customer based word of mouth can hurt your business more than helping it.
However a networking partner will always be on the lookout for good customers for your business, just as you are always looking for people to send to your networking partners.  Networkers also will know more about your business and your target customers, and they are experts in marketing your business by word of mouth, the most powerful kind of marketing that exists.  This kind of referral generation lasts longer and brings you a steady stream of high quality business. The kind that doesn’t turn around and go to your competitor as soon as they have a sale.  You can get more good referrals from one or two good networking sources than from all your customers who come through your doors.  Most importantly, the customers you gain from networkers will be the kind you want to keep.