Yesterday I went to the second breakfast meeting of a small networking group who are just trying to get established. (This is the same group where the venue had cooked all the eggs two weeks ago (see post from 13 July) and were unable to provide me with scrambled instead of fried, of which, more later!)
At the first meeting, there were 18 people present, this time - just 11. I do hope the group survives but I have some doubts. From my own experience of setting up and running a group (4 years ago), I know how difficult it is to build and maintain a viable number of members.
On Monday, I was invited to yet another networking group's first meeting to be held at the end of this month - hence the Networking Fatigue Alert! (see post from 6 July)
How can all these breakfast groups survive? There are only so many breakfasts a person can eat.
Today I heard about a well established (over 6 years) group who are sadly losing long established members and struggling to attract new ones.
Could it be that all the 'new' groups are creating a different breed of networker? I know that I'm in danger of becoming a 'Networking Tart"! (definition: a networker who visits every new group just to see what it's like and who's there.) I know that when I was a regular member of a group, my loyalty was to my fellow members. Now, because I can do all the networking I want, without the commitment of joining a group, there isn't any group loyalty and business referrals are more hit and miss.
Could it be that, with all these new groups starting up, the more established groups are suffering as members defect to find out what else is out there? Could these satellite groups actually be damaging the amount of referred business?
Sadly, what also struck me, as I listened to the proposed goals of this new group yesterday, is that their goals are almost the same as most of the other groups I've visited, although they may be worded differently. I had to keep my mouth well and truly buttoned!
Please forgive me if I start to rant at this point. The main purpose of networking is to build relationships. But, you cannot build relationships based on meeting someone just once or twice. You choose the people you want to get to know better (perhaps on the basis that you have similar interests, similar target markets - or you just like them!) and you spend time developing that relationship.
Visiting different groups once or twice is not enough to build relationships. Joining a group and attending regularly is. I'm not going to risk my reputation referring business to someone I hardly know. On the other hand, if I've been meeting them once a week over a period of time, I will feel much more comfortable introducing them to my other contacts.
Just to let you know that, despite ordering "just scrambled eggs and mushrooms" for my breakfast, on my plate were - scrambled eggs, mushrooms, tomato, the hated baked beans, hash brown and toast. I have to say that the eggs and mushrooms were delicious - but I'm still wondering what part of the word 'just' was so hard to understand!