Business networking groups bring together business people in local, regional or international groups, or in groups dedicated to a specific industry or type of work. The aim of the groups is to enable members to share experience and best practices, support each other and find mutually beneficial business opportunities. Organizers can set up a new group from scratch or use the model of an existing network, such as a Chamber of Commerce. As well as networking groups that meet face-to-face, organizers also can set up online groups that use social networking techniques to maintain contact.
Appoint a management team from work colleagues or people from other companies who want to network. Hold an initial team meeting to allocate responsibilities for recruiting members and organizing the group’s activities. Put together a launch plan. Decide on the objectives of the group, the format of the meetings and the plan for the recruitment program.
Decide the geographic area or category of work your group will cover. Check a website like VentureStreet to see if there are other networking groups in the area. Choose a geographic basis if your town or region does not have an existing networking group and has a diverse business profile. Set up an industry group if there is a concentration of similar businesses in your area, or if your industry has no existing networking group.
Set objectives for the group. According to the British networking group Ecademy, business people must first have a strong personal relationship of trust before a transaction or referral can take place. Choose basic social objectives if members just want an opportunity to meet and exchange views or build business relationships. Set educational aims, offering courses or sessions if members want to share or improve knowledge or skills. Operate as a pressure group if members want to raise the profile of an area or industry, or represent their interests with government agencies or regulators.
Decide on the format of networking meetings. Choose breakfast meetings, held before normal business hours, to suit busy members. Create lunch or dining groups for members who prefer the social aspects of networking groups. Set up evening meetings for members who prefer to complete their working day before participating.
Add value by demonstrating the business benefits of membership. Invite high-profile speakers or experts to network meetings. Arrange briefings on important business issues. Give members the opportunity to network with potential business partners. Arrange visits to market-leading organizations. Offer members a regular newsletter on business issues.
Publicize the existence and benefits of the group. Contact prospective members by mail or email with details of the group and membership information. Send a press release to the business editors of local newspapers or to trade publications. Invite prospective members to a launch event and offer reduced joining fees to people who attend the launch.