Six different types of business networking that may work for you:
2. Open Business Networking
3. Exclusive Business Networking
4. Online Networking
5. COI Networking
Service Organizations: This type of networking is when you join an organization that has a mission of service. Business networking is a by-product. The primary focus may be educational or to raise funds for worthy causes. Examples would include: Rotary, Optimists Club, National Association of Woman’s Business Owners, Kiwanis and the Chamber of Commerce (However Chambers do have open and closed business networking events also.)
Open Business Networking: This type of networking is when business people get together to meet each other in order to be visible, connect and form relationships. Leads or referrals can be given and received. Several attendees may be in the same profession. There is no exclusivity. They may not meet on a regular basis. Usually membership is not required and there are no attendance rules. Examples would include: Chamber networking events, Young Professional groups, Better Business Bureau networking events and local networking groups open to all businesses.
Exclusive Business Networking: This type of networking is when business people meet on a regular basis in order to form reciprocal business relationships and to develop referral alliances. A person will usually have to join after a few visits. There are usually attendance rules. There is exclusivity which means that there is only one person representing each business category. The meetings usually have a purposeful agenda that is geared toward giving and receiving referrals. Examples would include: Gold Star Referral Clubs, BNI, and LeTips.
Online Networking: Online networking is a growing industry. Some of the sites used to connect businesses are Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. These sites are dedicated to connecting people. Online networking can be successful if manage well, but overwhelming if not. It is recommended that you limit yourself to doing a few groups very well. Don't mistake a connection for a relationship.
COI Networking: That is when you develop a plan to network with your personal Circle Of Influence. This works best when you have a well-thought out plan to continually make yourself visible to past clients and the people you know. Some ways to develop these relationships include: breakfast or lunch meetings, email campaigns, sending cards, promotional gift giving, attending events together and office visits.
Shot-gunning: Shot-gunning is when you do a little bit of everything, without a plan. Although connections and sales can be made, it is difficult to form lasting relationships without consistency.
There are many ways to business network. I suggest that you form a plan using two or three methods that work for you. Remember your purpose for business networking, which is to form long-lasting reciprocal relationships that increase your business.