A few months ago I joined a professional networking group in my town. My husband and I are still relatively new to this area and so I joined to meet people as much as for business reasons.
I have never belonged to one of these groups before. I thought it would be similar to Chamber of Commerce networking events I attended years ago with my prior company. It’s nothing like that (which is great because I hated them). Those people you meet once, get their business card and never hear from them again. This group, on the other hand, meets regularly every week, and you really start to feel a kinship with each other.
This particular group is what’s known as an exclusive referral group. The members (only one per business type is allowed) are expected to refer business to each other based on their contacts. So if you are an auto mechanic and one of your customers happens to mention that her daughter just got engaged, you should be able to refer her to your group’s caterer, photographer, real estate agent, travel agent, etc. You essentially become a salesperson for each of the other members of your group. It’s a pretty simple formula.
My ability to be a productive member of this group meets with two challenges. First of all my customers are not your typical sales leads. It is hard to explain to the group the type of referrals that are valuable to me and to Grouvia. (BTW – each person has 45 seconds each week to stand up and tell the group what they do and who would be a good referral for them.) Although a few people have mentioned that Grouvia might help their <whatever> group, I have not gotten any solid referrals yet.
My second challenge is that since I work out of my home office 99% of the time, I don’t meet a lot of people who talk to me about their needs. Grouvia does not have many users yet, so I don’t have a lot of regular contact with my customers like other businesses do.
However, I keep going to the meetings every week, in the hopes that one of these days things will click between this group and me. I’ve met some very nice people, and some are even becoming my friends. It gets me out of the house — I force myself to dress up a little and put some makeup on, instead of just throwing on jeans and a sweatshirt and a pair of slippers.
Another benefit? Being an entrepreneur is a lonely job, and this helps me feel less lonely.
So the bottom line is that even though I have not seen any tangible business benefit yet, there is definitely a personal benefit, which is equally valuable.
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