I have spent the last two years looking at the way Network Groups are run, the businesses who attend them and the business that develops. I have done more than 100 one-on-one meetings, which is way below average for most business networkers so is not real impressive, but what I got out of the conversations validates the points I will make.
Let me start with describing the different types or styles of networking groups that are out there and are developing.
The Meal Ticket Groups: These are the traditional mainstay old fashion approaches to capturing business people over a meal in hopes they will purge themselves of sales leads and business connections while shoving a chicken leg down their neck. I called the groups who meet for breakfast, lunch or dinner the Meal Ticket Groups because generally you have to be invited to attend by someone who is a member of the group and they generally provoke you to attend my telling you they will buy your lunch…the meal ticket..
The history behind this style of networking meeting is they were organized to appease to the business people, who are mostly sales people that have daily sales quotas to meet, business people who cannot (or even worst, will not) manage their business day or business owners who have so many operational problems that they cannot get away from the office longer than the time it takes to eat breakfast or lunch. The business people who like the breakfast’s state they like to get the networking out of the way early so it does not interrupt them getting started with dealing with problems for the rest of the day. The same goes with the Lunch networking meeting being the only time they can get away from the office and need a break from dealing with problems. The Dinner Networking is probably the best of the meal networking meetings but usually is not well attended due to business people either wanting to deal with late day problems or wanting to get home for family time. But, the dinner meetings do provide a calmer group to network with since it allows the members of the group to relax, have a glass of wine and visit.
The bottomline: Most of these meetings formulated around the meal as a draw thinking that it would let business people kill two birds with one stone…eat and meet. But, from the conversations I have had with these networkers it seemed that a lot of businesses out there that cannot manage their time or know how to set up their operations where problems are taken care of or become non-existing so can spend as much time as they need to networking. There is a way, but I will have to discuss how to this is done in another article.
The Boardroom Networking Groups: This version of business networking popped up a couple of years ago and provided some needed optimism in the business networking arena until the leaders of these groups made an unwise attempt to make boardroom networking a profitable business. But, this kind of meeting, where a small group of people gather in a Non-meal related boardroom atmosphere, provides for a more business approach to networking. The boardroom feel fit well with the business executives and others who wear three piece suits everyday even if they done have a reason to, or need to.
Bottomline: This is a great way business people to get their message across to other people without having to break the ice by asking for someone to pass the pepper sauce or if they have any Zantacs.
The Social Networking Groups: This gathering of business people in a social style is probably the most effective. These groups are close to being a Dinner Networking groups but veer off from serving a meal by organizing social outings like wine tasting, horse racing, culinary classes or other gathers that naturally lend to promoting a sharing atmosphere. Social Networking Groups (SNG’s) are relatively a new and refreshing approach to networking. The SNG work well as a by-product of the even more effective and very popular online business networking groups that are being created across the country. The SNG draws in all types of business and generally produces a more quality business connection. Bottomline: The SNG, managed correctly, is the direction business networking needs to go. And I LIKE THE SNG’s.
What is common with all of these groups, and will be the death to all business networking groups, is they mandate a One Minute Commercial to be given by each person who attends any of these styles of networking meetings. What a bunch of crap… Even in the case of the boardroom meetings that provide a full five minutes, if you have heard one financial advisers spill you have heard them all. In some cases it might even be best that in the large groups that the leaders ask that all financial advisors get on one side of the room and provide their one minute spill in ocopela. And the Real Estate agents get on the other side and mime their pitch to the insurance agents. At least that would provide the rest of the group who do not have large marketing budgets with some entertainment.
The traditionalists who keep this type of networking groups alive are not very innovative and feel that a one-minute commercial is the only way to effectively find out what the person does or provides the business world. I hope they put the lid down when they got through thinking that approach out.
As far as the groups that mandates the requirement of each member to produce a sales lead to keep their membership. I call this the one-two knockout punch to the group, the one-minute commercial and the mandated sale leads. Why do they do this? In the interviews I have with members and leaders of the mandated sales leads groups they feel that it is a complete waste of their time if they are not produced with a positive sales lead at each weeks meeting. In reviewing these individuals business I find that their profit margins are so small that they can not produce a profit until they produce large volumes of sales. All of this is due to a saturation of the market they are in business for and having to reduce their profit margins to compete. Most of these guys and gals live for the pleasure of the deal and really have lost touch with how to treat people.
Bottomline: These groups have to change and purge the groups of members who do not like change or cannot (or again, do not want to) change.
The concept of Business Networking has to change before there will ever be any improvement or before more viable business people who representing the entire economy will attend these groups. There are a number of options these groups need to consider and the main one is to drop the one-minute commercial. It does not produce anything including information about the person’s business. All it does is force the person to demean their business by having to come up with catchy slogans and phrases that does noting to improve their business image. Why do I say this? Because I have done the one-minute commercial so many times I get bored with it. And if I am bored so are the people that have to hear it, especially if they are the same people I presented it to the last time we met. And as the groups get smaller the problem gets worst.
In other words the One-Minute Commercial is dead and will kill the group if the leaders do not find other ways to tell people who attend the meetings what the others in attendance do for a living. A very simple solution to a cancerous problem.
Why do I say the One-Minute Commercial is dead? Well, it primarily is due to about 90% of the people who do them do not have a clue on how to do them effectively and the 10% who do know how usually provide information on a service or product that is better advertised by the media advertisement and means better suited to their business than at a networking group.
Bottomline: What kills a networking group is lack of growth and the businesses that lay claim to the group. Why is there lack of growth with all of the start-up businesses and new businesses? In the many conversations I have had with business people I have met in networking groups I find that they are either just joined the group or leaving the group. The reason they just joined the group is that the other groups they were in had the same people every week and more Financial Advisors, Insurance Agents, MLM’s and Real Estate Agents represented in the group than any other kind of business in the group. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends golfing partners are FA’s, Insurance agents and real estates. (Do I have to say why I don’t have any MLM’S as frineds?)
Those people leaving the group were tired of speaking to the same group of people and hearing (or in most cases, getting repeatedly hit on for sales leads) the same one-minute commercials by the same business. Seems this is the nature of the beast when it comes to networking groups, but can change by getting rid of the One Minute Commercial. Take that away and put the information in writing for all who attend to review while they eat, or after they get back to their office, would be much more productive than sitting in a room with 100 business people each giving a one minute commercial. Come on! Even I, who had been in the business world for more than 30 years, know it is 2006, and there are many, many other ways to get your message across than standing up and filling the air for a minute.
So, someone write the eulogy for this type of business networking because the One-Minute Commercial Is Dead…
I’ll be back later to talk about Online Business Networking, the future of Business Networking. Stay tuned…