Evoke Strategies :: 212-967-7611 :: www.evokestrategies.com

Evoke Strategies    eNews   summer 2009

Another Look at Dedicated Networking Groups

Steven Skyles-Mulligan
Evoke Strategies

Groucho Marx famously said that he wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. Many professionals and heads of organizations feel similarly ambivalent about joining groups. When it comes to networking, however, dedicated networking groups can be an important part of the mix.

For one thing, there's the efficiency factor: when you attend a networking group, you have the opportunity to deliver your message at a high level to a large number of people at one time -- and simultaneously to "audition" all of those people to see if they are a good fit for your personal network. The second important reason is that, since people attend networking group activities for the same underlying reason -- to build their businesses -- some of the awkwardness usually associated with that purpose is dispelled. Finally, if you find the right networking group, everyone in the group will be on your side, so it's safe to practice your basic pitch and get useful feedback about how you have explained what you do.

Breaking the Mold: Finding the Right Fit

One strategic business consultant summed up his discomfort with networking groups: "I hate going because I feel that everyone is always trying to sell to me." But the professionals and executives who claim that networking groups do not work for them simply may not have found the right groups. There's nothing wrong with your local BNI or Le Tip chapter; I've gotten a lot of business from them over the years and have recently seen a young partner in a CPA firm cut his networking teeth with a BNI group. However, the weekly meeting format requires a big time commitment and often results in piles of unqualified leads. Additionally, the audience may not be quite right; most professionals and CEOs find that peers are their best resources for both referrals and creative problem-solving.

Fortunately, the networking group model has evolved in the past 25 years and there are many variations to suit different needs and styles. Now there are groups that:

  • Promote interaction among members though active listservs, so you can get to know hundreds of people just by spending a few minutes reading your email each day (read about Gotham Networking).
  • Hold "virtual" meetings via phone and/or Internet so you can network without leaving your desk (read about Adrian's Network).
  • Serve as your marketing engine by actively promoting you within the group -- and beyond (read about The Rainmakers' Forum).
  • Operate by invitation only and involve fun events (read about St. Armand Ventures).
  • Help members leverage each other's networks through coaching and structured discussions (visit Gene Brown and Bob Putt at American Business Associates.)
  • Arrange introductions in that most productive of deal-making environments, the golf course (visit Dan Pincus at World Golfs.)
  • Provide a forum for advice and assistance to people who are in a similar situation. (visit executive coach and strategist Maxine Hartley on LinkedIn and check out her Executive Tiger Teams for top-tier executives in transition).

Common Denominators for Uncommon Results

There's a common denominator in each of the groups I mentioned above: they were started by individuals with a specific vision and purpose in mind. In my experience, this is key to making a dynamic networking organization that goes beyond the pedestrian and becomes an active ally in business development. If you think networking groups are not for you, think about your biggest concerns and constraints around them and try to find a group with an engaged leader who may have started with some of the same concerns. Also keep in mind that no group will work if you don't work it; make sure you like enough of the members to want to spend time with them -- and eventually help promote them, too. If you're not sure that a group will be right for you, try employing Andrea Nierenberg's 2/2/2 strategy we discussed in the last newsletter: go to two meetings, meet two new people and have two 1:1 follow ups. You might even take this further and try to attend two new groups each quarter.


Feel free to email with any questions or to ask for
more information: steven@evokestrategies.com.
I'll be glad to help in any way I can.


Fred KleinNancy Schess
Attorneys Fred Klein and Nancy Schess of Klein Zelman Rothermel formed Gotham City Networking after the head of another networking group made them an offer they could refuse.


Sales Consultant and trainer Adrian Miller created Adrain's Network to help her clients and colleagues fit regular networking into their packed schedules.

Audio Interview
PDF highlights


Bruce Stout
Radio personality-turned-CPA-turned marketing guru and serial entrepreneur Bruce Stout formed the Rainmakers' Forum to serve as marketing alter ego for his professional clients.

Audio Interview
PDF highlights


Tam St. Armand
Insurance broker and entrepreneur Tam St. Armand developed St. Armand Ventures to connect people who are creative and socially-conscious.

Audio Interview
PDF highlights



Steven Skyles-Mulligan

steven@ evokestrategies.com


Get the conversation going again, with Evoke

Steven Skyles-MulliganWhen everyone else -- including your competition -- is busy battening down the hatches, you have an opening. You may have to work a little harder to find it and be a little more patient in converting it from opening to opportunity. But it can be done by planning carefully, taking the right steps and consulting an expert. When you're ready, Evoke would be glad to help. Contact us for a free consultation about your marketing challenges -- or pass this newsletter along to a friend or colleague.

How did I get on this list?
If we don't actually "know" each other, chances are that we met at a networking event of some sort and talked at least long enough to exchange business cards. Forgive me for presuming on that slight acquaintance to put you on my mailing list. I hope you'll find this newsletter valuable --- or at least amusing. If I'm just adding to the overwhelming pile of stuff that fills your inbox, feel free to unsubscribe below.