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Are You Working Without a Net?

Understanding Business Networking - What is Networking?

The first thought for some people when they hear “networking” is that it is some sort of “hoo-rah” multi-level marketing sales pitch presentation or a large group of business professionals shaking hands and passing out business cards while sipping on cocktails! If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve likely been invited to visit a networking meeting or event or maybe you’ve invited someone yourself? Perhaps you declined (or your invitation to attend was rejected) because of a lack of understanding of what Networking truly is. When Adam Small, the founder of Strategic Business Network, believes that “NETWORKING is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization!” it is something all business owners should learn about.

So, if Networking is one of the most powerful marketing tactics available, what is it! Networking can be defined as making connections and building enduring, mutually beneficial relationships. In other words, it’s the building of personal business relationships for the purposes of growing your business and helping it stand out among your competitors in the market place. When networking, you are getting to know the personalities and workmanship of other business professionals and developing the relationship so that they can educate those in their client base and in their sphere of influence about the products or services that you provide. You then provide the same for them. Networking is a reciprocal relationship. It’s is not about who you know but who knows you in exchange for who you know. So, the initial benefit of networking is growing your consumer base utilizing these relationships. In addition, Networking also allows you to broaden your knowledge base of other businesses, share ideas, participate in your community, and learn of more opportunities. In this way, Networkers are a resource to help others succeed. Back to our misconceptions, while sales between networkers does happen and networkers often become friends, this is not the reason that one should network. Networking, when done correctly, is NOT a social event or a sales pitch… it is a sound marketing tactic.

Networking is a must!

Business is about providing a product or service to the public. Business 101, you have to engage in marketing to let the public know about your product or service. It doesn’t matter how great your business is if no one knows about it. Marketing, when done correctly, builds the foundation for your brand and takes up real estate in the minds of your consumers, inviting them to engage with your business. Networking, a form of relationship marketing, is an extremely vital marketing strategy. Connecting with others on a regular basis, you are letting community leaders know that you exist, building relationships with those who would trust in their relationship with you and the product/services that you offer. When they refer your business to those in their own sphere of influence, it is spreading awareness of your brand, your business, and your product/services. It’s a smart way to let people know you exist. Making yourself known is a key element to effective networking. The idea being that the more people you meet, the more people there will be to get to know you and remember who you are. Another key element is having others promote your business. But you have to build relationships to gain that trust and earn those referrals…. and building relationships take time. Going to visit a networking group once and expecting them to remember you, trust you, and promote your business isn’t very responsible. Besides, seeing you once isn’t enough to keep you top-of-mind for very long. You need to keep reminding them you’re still around, who you are, your work ethic, and your products/services by networking regularly. Everyone knows that word of mouth is king when it comes to marketing any local business, so why are you not networking? It’s an organized, strategic way to develop word of mouth.

Local Networking

Now that you know becoming a member of a networking group, is one the most powerful marketing tactics that you have available, where do you start? Let me start by saying that Networking does require some skill. If you are a business owner and you want to grow your business you must learn how to effectively connect with others. Now, there are a few networking organizations, like North Georgia Business Connection, that will not only provide you the opportunity to build relationships but will also provide you with the training necessary to become a “Pro” at networking. Which brings up the first step to networking: deciding what type of group you want to attend. There are several types but let’s look at the four most common: Free, Open, Community/Civic, and Closed. Each provide a time, place, and opportunity in which to connect with others to promote you products and services on a personal level, however, the different types provide different nuances, formats, structures and atmospheres.

Free Networking Groups – No membership cost; open to anyone.

With free networking groups, all are welcome: business owners, home owners and concerned citizens alike. Networking is always free. The only thing you need to bring is your business cards, your positivity and your willingness to meet new people! Everyone is welcomed and you are not just a member; you are free to proactively engage in ideas and events that support bringing the community together.

New Lawrenceville is a free networking group that meets once each month. They are known for bringing the community together and providing marketing opportunities for area businesses. They bring both the residential and business communities together each year through initiatives like the annual Spring Green Festival each spring and hosting the Trolley Tours each summer. They are centered around revitalizing the historic community with a positive approach to a rich and prosperous future…networking and moving forward in business, but always remembering and appreciating our past. For more information about New Lawrenceville, visit them online at

Open Networking Groups – Membership cost; open to everyone.

An open networking group is different in that it is membership based. However, any business can become a member. Membership fees cover the opportunities that they provide. Some local open networking groups include your local Chamber of Commerce and Business Alliances/Associations. The Dacula Business Association is a great open group. The DBA promotes economic development for the city of Dacula, creating a common bond among local business people (professionals with customers/prospects who live in the Dacula area), by facilitating meetings where one can start and grow business relationships, as well as, supporting community activities and charitable organizations. They meet the 3rd Tuesday of each month at The Trophy Club on Dacula Rd. Every attendee is given 30 seconds to speak. Lunch is provided every month by a local restaurant. New comers are allowed two visits each year to see if the DBA is an organization they would like to join. For more information about the DBA, go to

Community and Civic Groups -Membership cost; membership may have specific criteria.

These groups or often civic minded or socially oriented groups that provide networking opportunities but have their focus on some other niche area. Fraternities, sororities, community boards, environmental groups, civil rights / civil liberties groups, and houses of worship would be included in this group. In these groups, networking is a by-product of like people coming together under a specific cause or creed. Groups in this category would include Rotary Club, Lions Club, Kiwanis, the American Legion, the Masonic lodge, etc.

Closed Networking Groups – Membership cost; one member per industry category

A closed networking group is like an open group only they deal in exclusivity. Only one company from each business discipline/industry is allowed membership in each chapter. The purpose behind this is to provide their members with one business in each chapter that is an expert in their field. This arrangement is beneficial for all members because they become the “go-to-guy” for their industry. This promotes loyalty, trust, and a positive work ethic among members. Closed networking groups are for businesses that want to be serious about using networking as a marketing tactic. Management of these groups are centered around doing what is best for its members and they take it very seriously. For example, the largest independently owned and operated closed networking group in Georgia is the North Georgia Business Connection. They hired Reformation Productions, a full service marketing agency focused on helping local and regional businesses grow, to discover how best to position their organization, what local business owners were looking for in a networking organization, how to provide those features, and how to communicate effectively with them. As a result, the organization has grown more than 85% this year. Like we mentioned before, Networking is a powerful marketing tactic and members of closed networking groups know that and are serious about discovering the best ways to structure, communicate and operate in the arena. Dedicated to helping their members, these groups often have multiple chapter locations and a passionate management structure. But like open groups, there are different styles, processes, structures, offerings, and atmospheres provided by each of these groups.

Examples of a few Closed Networking Groups include:

WOAMTEC- a network for Women On A Mission To Earn Commission. Their focus is in building a positive networking atmosphere where seasoned professional business women can come together to share ideas, offer support, and create solid business alliances. All while keeping their lives in balance and with their priorities of Faith, Family, and Career. Their Lawrenceville chapter meets bi-weekly on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month for lunch at 11:30am. For more details, visit

Networking MFG is focused on serving the manufacturing community. If you are not a manufacturer, machine shop, engineer or designer you will be required to bring someone from these specific industries as part of your admission to all meetings. They meet once each month for a structured two hour networking event. For more information, see

North Georgia Business Connection (NGBC) is focused on helping business professionals grow both as individuals and as a company. They provide networking training, mentoring relationships, seminars and workshops, and more to help grow their people while, at the same time, providing a successful structure and system for growing each others’ businesses through passing quality referrals among their members… basically, it’s like having an outside sales force at your disposal where the members are held accountable to each other and the organization. Each of their multiple chapters provide their own personality, but the overall atmosphere is about caring for each other and growing each others’ businesses. While being serious about structure and respect for their members, the organization has a family feel and is not overly “corporate” or “stuffy.” Their chapters meet in the mornings, each week. For individual chapter information, days and times, visit online at

Other local closed networking groups include: NetworkingWorks, The Suwanee Network, Business Network International (BNI), GAPS, PowerCore, Dacula Business Referral Network, ABWA, and Leads Club. Making networking work for you People who don’t understand networking or say they are too busy are missing out on utilizing one of the most successful and powerful marketing tactics at their disposal. Successful business owners have made the time and understand the value and benefits of what Networking can do for business, the satisfaction of helping others, and for the overall growth potential of their local business community. If we lose our local businesses, we will lose our sense of community! Networking is valuable time you proactively set aside in your week/month/day to grow your business. Decide which groups are best for you. Be strategic in your planning. Bring plenty of business cards. Dress professionally and make new connections. It is not NetSITting or NetEATing it is NetWORKing! So, let’s get to work!

My advice – Free Networking Groups are a good place to start…where you can get your feet wet. Then start to add in (not substitute) the more structured groups you choose. Or join a larger group to learn the basics or grow yourself as a networker. Track your results and you will see the benefits as your business starts to grow.

New-Lvlle-roundThis article is sponsored by New Lawrenceville, bringing local business together. Author Rachel Bennett networks for Reformation Productions, a marketing agency providing marketing education, brand consultation, consumer targeting, and creative services in the Gwinnett County area. They focus on making professional marketing practices available to local/regional businesses in a way that they can afford. Find out more at