Image courtesy of Pixabay and geralt

Image courtesy of Pixabay and geralt

Summer is coming to a close and it’s the time to refocus and re-strategize our game plan to finish the year strong. One way to strengthen your advantage is by strategically involving yourself and your business in the right networking groups. Success in business really can come down to who you know as much as what you know.

Having the know-how in your field is the first vital step, but then connecting yourself with the right people is the clincher that wins the game.

There is no single right answer to where you should network; the important factor is knowing your options and choosing a networking group that will best help your business – and you – grow. From national to local business networking groups, there are hundreds to consider.
Here are some facts about some well-known groups to help you in the process.

1. BNI (Business Networking International)
What it is: A worldwide network made up of thousands of local chapters.
How it works: Each local chapter is a closed group comprised of members representing individual fields. Members meet weekly.
Membership Requirements: Only one person from each occupational field is permitted in a chapter; you must pass screening and interviewing processes to be accepted. Once a member, meetings and referrals are required as part of membership.
Growth Opportunity: Business connections, referrals, and workshops.
Cost: There are yearly or bi-yearly fees; contact the local chapter you are interested in joining for details.

2. I Take the Lead
What it is: A referral-growth organization with groups in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Arkansas
How it works: A group dedicated to generating leads that turn into customers. Meetings are held weekly.
Membership Requirements: Fill out an application and attend weekly meetings.
Growth Opportunity: Networking, leads, periodic workshops. iTTL offers unique Business-to-Business networking groups for business geared towards other businesses instead of consumers.
Cost: A one-time startup fee and then $25 monthly for business-to-consumer groups or $50 monthly for business-to-business groups.

3. Chambers of Commerce
What it is: A local organization with a goal to further the interests of its members.
How it works: Events and meetings geared towards building business relationships within a local community.
Membership Requirements: Generally, filling out an application and paying your fees.
Growth Opportunity: Networking, exposure to other businesses, a good way to stay connected with what’s going on in your local community, a way for your voice to be heard on local political issues.
Cost: Yearly dues vary; contact your local chamber for more information.

4. Le Tip
What it is: A professional business with chapters in the United States and Canada.
How it works: Weekly chapter meetings made up of one representative from each professional category.
Membership Requirements: Attend at least two meetings before applying. Application is reviewed and voted on by existing chamber members. Weekly attendance is required, with emphasis being put on bringing at least 1 referral per week.
Growth Opportunity: Referrals, training, networking.
Cost: $325 startup fee, $40 to the local chamber, and quarterly dues ranging from $125-$150 on average.

5. Bridges
What it is: A relationship-based networking group in the Portland/Vancouver area.
How it works: Weekly meetings limited to one person from each professional category.
Membership Requirements: Go through the audition process by interviewing with each member of the group. Participation in at least 75% of annual meetings.
Growth Opportunity: Build relationship with other business owners in your community; word-of-mouth referrals.
Cost: A one-time fee of $35; no annual fees after that.

These groups are only the tip of the networking iceberg. Networking is a necessity, but the strategy that will be successful for each business will not be the same across the board. Aside from the more well-known groups, be on the lookout for smaller, local networking groups that might afford you valuable connections in your community. But bottom line, it is a winning business strategy to go out of your way to be strategically connected with other businesses.

© 2011 Propel Businessworks (SET) – All rights reserved.

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