If the Leadership and the majority of group members do not look like or act like Clint Eastwood, then reconsider! Business networking is a great way to meet your business to business target market. These groups can literally become an unpaid sales force for the small to mid size business owners depending upon their industry. After being involved in several business networking organizations, I have observed these common reasons why so many fail and what perspective members should look out for, as these pitfalls can prove damaging to your business, your brand, and your reputation.
1. BAD LEADERSHIP – This is the primary reason for the failure of many of these groups. Unless the leadership is ethical and results driven, the group will eventually whither away and die. Just as you would make inquiries if you were applying for a job, meet with the leader and ask questions about membership growth, participation, and success stories. Also ask for a membership list to be sure that the membership makes sense in terms of your target market.
2. SOCIAL VERSUS BUSINESS – The purpose of these business networking groups is to grow business from the outside. Networking is a commitment so invest your time wisely to achieve a significant result.
3. FORMATION OF CLIQUES – This trait is very much connected to bad leadership. In many cases, the leadership is also involved in the cliques and this in turn creates disharmony within the group. When looking for healthy and productive networking groups, avoid those infested with cliques as the energy of the group is not conducive to building and sustaining sound business relationships.
4. INCESTUOUS REFERRALS – This as well, is a result of bad leadership and clique formation. Referrals internally do increase sales for some members, but at the expense of others. Incestuous referrals becomes a one way street and leaves those non-incestuous members short sales revenue.
5. LACK OF UNDERSTANDING – Not understanding the business of the other members makes it impossible to make valuable referrals. Those in the cliques and those benefiting from the incestuous referrals have no reason to understand the business of the other members. When considering membership, it’s important to identify the culture of the group in this regard.
6. INCONSISTENT ACCOUNTABILITY – This is an outgrowth of bad leadership and promotes social and clique formation. Who wants to vote out a member who another member considers a friend? Why have rules and bylaws? Ask the leadership and ask group members if the culture of the group is one that has a consistent accountability in practice.
When the above situations take place, there has been a departure from the purpose of business networking by the leadership and by the membership. Business networking associations are formed to increase sales for all members and not just some members. Visit several networking groups, talk to other business owners, invest your time wisely to secure the greatest results.