Done right, networking groups are a powerful platform for relationship-building in the world of business – and if you’re toying with the idea of starting a networking group of your own, this could be the start of an exciting new chapter in your professional life.
At Six Circles, we’re in the business of bringing communities together – so we fully support you in your quest to give like-minded businesspeople a place to create connections, share ideas and advance their careers or enterprises. First, though, let’s cover a handful of key decisions we’d recommend making before you take the leap.
Why you’re launching your own group
What’s lacking in your local networking scene that’s compelling you to take matters into your own hands? Inclusivity? Originality? A personal touch? Whatever you feel like the missing piece of the puzzle is, make sure you’re fixed on a unique selling point before starting a business networking group, so you can keep this front and centre in your promotional messaging and stay true to your group’s origins throughout its lifetime.
Who you’d like to bring together
Your networking group may be built on a mission to bring certain types of businesspeople together – such as women, parents, freelancers or tech industry professionals, to name but a few of the many, many possibilities. If that is the case, this decision should really make itself. However, if the concept behind your networking group is a little broader than this, you’ll need to take some time to figure out what your dream group member looks like – considering such factors as their age, location, job title, sector, interests and lifestyle to map out this member persona.
Where your group will congregate
Naturally, your networking group will need a physical meeting place – and while this single detail may seem trivial in isolation, the location of your events can make or break the overall success of your group. Accessibility is essential, including for older members and those with disabilities, but you’ll also want to ensure there are adequate transport links to your events and find a space that can comfortably accommodate your group at its maximum size.
Of course, your networking group may not have a fixed location – and you may instead want to negotiate with different venues from month to month to book a space for your events – but knowing what’s not negotiable from the start is vital for avoiding any venue-related mishaps.
How you’ll build a following
Word of mouth will always be the networking group’s perpetual motion machine, steadily increasing member numbers as a result of natural referrals – but to get to the point where these referrals build momentum, you’ll need to start with an outbound marketing campaign designed to generate initial interest in joining your group.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will undoubtedly have a part to play here, with groups, hashtags and paid advertising in your arsenal of promotional tools – but you may also want to use email to entice existing contacts or even embark on a paid search campaign to get eyes on your networking group’s dedicated website.
How you’ll keep your members engaged
For your networking group to be profitable, you may need to charge a membership fee – whether on a monthly, annual or bespoke basis – which begs the question, what will you do to make sure membership offers genuine value for money?
There are possibilities galore to explore, from typical perks like free food, drinks, activities and entertainment to the prospect of access to in-demand venues and speakers. The key is to assess the priorities and motivations of your target audience and identify what they’re likely to expect at a minimum and value as a reward for their loyal membership.
How you’ll stay relevant
Engaging an audience is one thing – keeping them engaged in the long term is another thing entirely. Before taking the leap and starting a business networking group, first decide how you’ll continue to engage, entice and excite your members long after they’ve joined your tribe. One tried and tested tactic for remaining relevant as a brand is to encourage and action feedback from your following – and this is certainly true of a networking group, where your success rests on their continued enjoyment of the experiences you provide.
Powerful tools for gathering meaningful feedback include dedicated user forums – where members can discuss issues relevant to your group amongst themselves – and polls, which you can use to ask the big questions and find out where your members stand on those points. Once the verdict’s in, you can continue to hone and refine your networking group’s messaging and events to evolve with your audience’s changing interests and needs.
Find out how we can make starting a networking group a successful venture with the power of targeted community building and engagement right here.