27 January 2010

Which type of network fits you like a glove ?

In earlier posts I already wrote about the various differences between networks, based on their average users. In this post I'm looking at the basic offering of various types of networks.
In general I can see three types of networking going on at various meetings, events and online platforms. In these three types of networks I can spot significant differences in the offering to their members, trying to satisfy specific needs.

1. "Old school" Networking

These networks offer the essential basics for a starting entrepreneur, but also established managers like the simple style of networking in these organisations.
You have the opportunity to grow your network at various events, but you'll also find a lot of top-down advice, training and learning opportunities. Most of these networks also offer mentoring programs, where experienced managers will help startups through their first years in business.
These organisations will give you a fast answer to any business question. As a member you will have a feeling of belonging to a strong and large group, which is defending your rights as an entrepreneur.

Typical examples : Chamber of Commerce, Unizo, ...
Costs :
- Membership fee (Often related to the size of your business)
- Entrance costs for most events

2. Social Business networking

These are the average networking clubs of today. Lots of networking events will give you the opportunity to grow your network. Leads and referrals will come to you, based on trust and reputation. Indirect business and recommendations will be the automatic result of online and offline networking. These networks will give you a feeling of belonging to a large club of entrepreneurs, handing each other some business.

Typical examples : Ecademy, Xing, M4M, ...
Costs :
- Moderate membership fee
- Entrance cost for most events, unless already included in the membership fee

3. Premium Networking

Unlike the typical social business events, the focus in this style of events is on advising each other or helping each other with typical business problems. You will build deep relationships with the other members of your group. Meetings usually have a concept based on a Mastermind group and offer secrecy. Most Premium networks will also have tresholds for entering the network, often based on industry, geography and expectations.
These networks will give you the feeling of having your own 'board of directors', helping you to grow your business.

Typical examples : Blackstar, BNI, ...
Costs :
- High membership fee
- Entrance fee for most events, unless already included in the membership fee

Since the offering is clearly different for all three types of networking, the combination of all three is probably the best choice for a full networking experience, satisfying the needs for your business. I'm a member of several networks and clubs in all three types and I don't think I could miss any of these three types ...
(Picture: M4M Networking event)

5 January 2010

Networking into the New Year and a new economy

My very best wishes for a successful and recession-free 2010 !!!

As we enter a new decade, social networking gets more important every day. If you are an entrepreneur or a small business owner it will be close to impossible to survive after the recession without a solid and trusted network.

In general there are three large groups of entrepreneurs :
Starters (18-25) - The middle generation (25-50) and the Senior Managers (50+)

Senior Managers have built up a solid network during the many years of their career. They can rely on their trusted connections for support and referrals whenever needed.

The middle group (25-50) are the people with the least experience in social networking. This is the generation which was raised with "sales, sales, sales" as the main message. Often they think networking is just another marketing technique which needs lots of effort and isn't really profitable.

The group that we often forget to think about are the starters (18-25). Today, when students graduate they already have a network on Facebook or MySpace of 1000 connections on average.

Entrepreneurs always laugh with this fact because those connections are just other students and people they hang out with in weekends. Right.

What we forget is that this entire network ALSO graduates and enters the professional business world at the same time. When students finish school and enter their first job, their entire Facebook/MySpace network instantly transfers into a professional business network.

Young people today start their professional life with a 'warm' and trusted network of approx. 1000 contacts ... and they keep on growing their network in the next years.

My fear is the simple fact that the middle generation is not ready for this "competition".
The middle generation has to embrace social networking and learn how to apply the tools.

My contribution to this will be a new training course 'Social Media for Business', brand new and available as from now ;-)