Business Networking Groups: Networking is Like Shoe Shopping

networking like shoe shopping fbFinding the “right” business networking group is a lot like shopping for shoes.  It can be fun, frustrating, and sometimes, downright hazardous to your finances.

Here are a few “shopping guidelines” when looking for a networking group:

You really have to try them on to see if they fit.
Ever try on something that said “one size fits all?”  Such a joke!  Designers can’t even decide what a size 8 in women’s clothing should be across different brands and styles, let alone create something that can be worn by “everyone.”  There is no such thing.

Same is true in networking.  Networking groups all have their own personality based on the people that make up the group.  No matter what the mission statement says on the website or what your best friend says about it being “the best networking group in town”, YOU need to be the judge for yourself.  Only by going to a couple of meetings, talking to the members and experiencing what the group is like first hand can you determine if it is the right fit for you and your business.

Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes you don’t.
I’ve bought cheap shoes because they were cute and matched a particular outfit – only to have them fall apart after wearing them only a few times.  I’ve also spent beaucoup bucks on what I thought were “good shoes” and the heel breaks, the insole tears or the soles wear out too quickly.

Networking groups can be that way, too.  Just because a group is “free” and doesn’t charge a membership fee, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.  And vice versa.  Just because a group charges hundreds of dollars to join, doesn’t mean it’s any better than those that don’t.  Be sure that your investment is a good one by weighing the financial costs and the benefits of membership for your business.

Even if they fit, it doesn’t mean you really need them.
You’re browsing and find these killer, purple pumps.  You already have 3 pairs of purple heels at home.  You try them on any way and they fit like a dream.  Ahhhh.  And, so you buy them.  They join the other purple shoes in your shoe collection and get to see the light of day about once a year because there are just so many other shoes you have to get to.

I see this a lot.  People are sometimes members of 10, 12 or even more networking groups.  Yet, when they hear of a new group or one they haven’t been to, they just have to go and join.  Now, they have even LESS time to spend at the groups they belong to, so their attendance is sporadic and they are seen as “lacking commitment” and aren’t involved like they should be.  People don’t get to know them and their business well enough to hire them or to refer them.

Sure, there are a lot of great groups.  Fun groups.  Groups where your friends and business colleagues hang out.  Groups that may even be a great fit for your business.  BUT, do you really need yet another group?  Or, do you really need to make the most of a few, strategic groups that can truly help your business thrive?

What do you look for when you’re shopping for a networking group?

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  1. Hi Cathy!

    While I cannot honestly relate to all the shoe business you mention, I can certainly identify with all your points about Business Networking Groups! There are good ones out there, and not so good ones. By ‘Good Ones,’ I mean that I resonate with the members, the philosophy, and the mood of the group. There are some great groups out there that I simply do not connect with – this is not their fault, it is just not a good fit!

    Your thoughts not only apply to Networking Groups but to other areas as well: Check out your clients! Are they a good fit for you, or are they there just to provide with with steady work? I know when I am working with a ‘Good Fit’ client, things are much better than when I used to accept anyone who wanted work done.

    Also, I started to look at my email list subscriptions and have unsubscribed from many of them. When I had the ‘Shiny Object’ syndrome, I signed up for everyone under the sun’s lists! My email would get clogged, and I just deleted them anyway.

    Looks like I wrote more than I wanted – LOL – this is certainly a topic near and dear to me! Thanks again!

    Be Well.
    Paul.

    • Cathy Jennings says:

      Hey Paul!

      Oh, c’mon — you gotta love shoes! :-)

      “Fit” is a really important consideration for all areas of our businesses. Your point about certain groups being great, but not right for you is something I wish more folks would get. Often I hear people blame the groups they belong to for their lack of success — lack of clients, lack of referrals, even lack of fun. The real issue is usually one of two things: the wrong group for their business goals or the fact that they don’t make the most of the group by being actively involved.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Great Article & Topic Cathy! This is very true. We are actually in the process of weeding out our client list. We would love to work with anyone, but some times there isn’t the right “fit” between the two of us.

    I have several people ask me to join different networking groups. Again, I’ve come across the same issue. I realize it’s important to network, but some times it doesn’t make sense to join the groups if they aren’t beneficial to your business!

    Thanks again for another great article!

    • Cathy Jennings says:

      Thanks, Sarah!

      It’s all about priorities, right? We need to keep our business and personal goals in mind whenever we consider an opportunity — whether it’s joining a networking group or taking on a new client.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Really useful info, Csthy. thank you. I subscribed to our list and RSS to get more pointers.

  4. This is so great. I keep seeing people encouraging others to sign up for multiple groups and sites. There is a lot to be said of focusing on a few really good ones.

    Just so you know, I recently weeded my shoe collection down from 57 pairs to about 20.
    Although, now that you mention it, I don’t have any purple pumps…

    • Cathy Jennings says:

      Hi Amethyst!

      Focus is a powerful tool — and one more of us need to take out, dust off and use more often!

      Congrats on simplifying the shoe collection, but no purple pumps? :-)

  5. Love your analogy to shoes! I tend to have only a few pairs of shoes I wear most of the time, until I need to replace them. Then I have shoes I wear occasionally. And guess what? I do the same thing with groups and friends. I tend to have a few close ones that I work with all the time, and then a few I use occasionally, for the event.

    • Cathy Jennings says:

      Thanks, Nancy!

      I do love fun shoes — although I’m not the Carrie Bradshaw type that spends $500 on a pair of 5 inch heels. :-)

      It’s sort of the old quality versus quantity argument — some folks feel that more networking groups and connections is better, while others feel that a few, really solid and interactive connections and/or groups are best.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Great post. I love the shoe analogy. So many times I have been burned on both ends (high end and cheapies). As a newbie to the social media and marketing universe, I did like Paul… signed up for way too many groups at first. I’m finally starting to weed my way through, but I know there’s many others I need to find. At least I know better what to look for now.

    Thanks for sharing. I found you through the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and I’ll definitely be back!

    • Cathy Jennings says:

      Hi Tia!

      Glad you enjoyed the analogy — gotta have some fun with all this networking stuff, right?

      Yes, I too get very enthusiastic about groups, opportunities and other “bright shiny objects”, so I need to remind myself from time to time to prioritize based on my most important goals. I don’t always make the best choices, but I’ve learned to course correct as necessary.

      Glad you stopped by and look forward to hearing from you again!

  7. He Cathy,
    Lovely blog and great analog. I also liked your readers comments. I like to see people get something from other peoples blogs. Glad I stopped by xx

  8. Cathy Jennings says:

    Hi Gina,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I enjoy the interaction and love to hear what my readers think. We all learn so much when there’s a discussion and sharing of insights.

  9. Tor Constantino, MBA says:

    Cathy, that was a delightful post and clever connection with shoes!! I’m glad I found you on the UBC!

  10. Roberta Budvietas says:

    Interesting analogy. And it applies online too. Some groups and people are not where you want to be and others are like those wonderful shoes that seem to last forever. Thanks Cathy

    • Cathy Jennings says:

      Good point, Roberta!

      And probably even more important to be strategic and thoughtful about which online groups we become involved in — there are just sooooo many!

  11. I love your work Cathy! Great analogy with the shoes. As a business owner and someone in charge of a networking group for women…I totally agree! I mean I also have to network :-) & try to keep this to a select few each month. I am still developing my brand along creating points of difference so that people can see value and reason to come along to one of our events. But you are so right when you say “we all have personalities” and sometimes you just don’t fit in!

    So when I look for a group to extend my network, I am definitely going to choose it based on the “type” and is it what I need right now?, “location”, “credibility” and I always get attracted to a good “guest speaker”.

    I am looking forward to meeting you soon Cathy…thanks for sharing :-)

    • Cathy Jennings says:

      Thanks so much, Jennifer!

      You bring an interesting perspective to this discussion as someone who runs a networking group. As with any business, you want to attract the “right” clients to your group — those who have similar interests and goals and who have something to offer the group.

      I have sometimes been surprised by which groups turn out to be the best fit for me and my business. It was only by being open to new experiences and by being clear in what I needed and wanted for my business that I was able to find some of these gems.

  12. Rachel Strella says:

    Oh, how I LOVE to shoe shop! What really resonated with me is your statement about the “do you really need them?” I have groups I love, but they do not necessarily offer a gain other than I simply enjoy them. In the business world, that’s technically a time waster.

    Thanks so much for this great post, Cathy!

    Rachel

  13. Cathy, what great points you make here and I agree 100%. Networking is a process and one that requires a well thought out strategy. You identified the biggest mistakes people make when trying to network and as a result they are not realizing the full benefits that true strategic networking can bring to their business. Thanks so much for your insights!