Business networking groups are a great strategy to grow your business with warm referrals rather than having to make a bunch of cold calls. But, often,  unseasoned networkers join groups thinking that referrals are just going to pour in immediately and automatically, without really understanding what it takes to get consistent and solid results.

In business, as in life, the more you give, the more you will receive.

1. Attend every meeting

Show up to every meeting. If possible, be early. This gives you an opportunity to get in some open networking before the meeting starts. When you start showing up late or not at all, is when your reputation starts to diminish with your group.

If you can’t be bothered to show up, why should they be bothered to send you referrals?

But it’s more than just showing up. You need to participate, contribute, give of yourself, get involved, be a presence and build a relationship with others in the group. When you focus on building relationships rather than just trying to get business, the business will come automatically. We do business with people that we like.

2. Be present, every meeting

The worst thing you can do during a meeting is be on your phone or be zoned out mentally. Most networking meetings are 90 minutes or less. Put you phones on silence for 90 minutes and focus on the people in front of you.

Pay attention during everyone’s elevator pitch. Write down their specific ask for the week. This helps keep them top of mind and makes it more likely that you will think of them later in the week and be able to find them a referral.

During a member’s presentation or educational presentation: pay attention, take notes, and, if possible, ask engaging questions. Not only will this keep their information top-of-mind, but it will help you stand out as an engaged member of the group.

3. Meet with other members in small groups or one-on-one

Networking groups try their best to give every member time to speak about their business, but that usually only means 1-2 minutes per member per week, with a longer presentation every few months.

This isn’t sufficient time to get to know someone well. Thus, it is very important to meet with fellow networking group members either one-on-one or in small groups.

This helps you to learn about each other’s businesses in more details, learn about what they do when they’re not doing business and ultimately form a relationship. We do business with people we like.

One to One Ideas

  • Hangout and talk for 30 minutes after the weekly meeting
  • Get together for lunch with one or two members
  • Go hit some golf balls at the driving range
  • Play a round of golf with a few members
  • Have a Friday night cocktail party and invite a couple group members
  • Go to a rock concert together

4. Find strategic partners within the group (AKA “contact spheres” or “power teams”)

You will be able to refer business to some people much easier than others. For example, I’m a web developer. I find it very easy to refer to other creative professions such as photographers, videographers, content writers, printers, other designers and customer apparel makers.

I find it very difficult to refer to professions like realtors, mortgage brokers and financial advisors – just because these are not things I usually discuss with my clients.

A realtor likely has the opposite problem: they would find it very easy to refer to a mortgage broker or insurance person and much more difficult to refer to me.

Thus, the importance of forming strategic partners, contact spheres or “power teams” within the group.

Be selfish. Invite people to join the group who are going to refer to you and who you can refer to easily. This benefits the whole group.

5. Use the group to help you promote your content and write you reviews

In our increasingly digital world. most businesses are using social media to promote themselves. One of the cheapest and most effective way to do this is with good content. But good content doesn’t get seen by osmosis. It has to either be boosted by paid promotion or shared.

But have no fear: when you have a networking group, you have a free sales team at your disposal. Ask your fellow group members to share your content (and share theirs).

Another powerful tool is the testimonial. Especially the written testimonial. Leave them written reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp and industry-specific sites (Zillow and Trulia for real estate, TheKnot for wedding photographers, etc). Ask them to leave you testimonials.

Have something every week

Try to bring something to the table every week.

  • Bring a referral
  • Bring a written testimonial
  • Bring a piece of educational content that benefits the group
  • Invite your group members to an event you are hosting

Referrals aren’t going to be automatic or even necessarily come easily. But the more you give and the faster you give it, the more you will get in return.

Come ready to give. Otherwise you are wasting your time (and ours).