“What is in it for me?”
NOTHING … if this is the attitude with which you approach any potential networking group or activity, and even more so if the group is designed to bring referrals to its members.
Relationships – networking, marketing, sales, business development – it is all about relationships. The only time you can “play the numbers” is if you have a limitless advertising budget and you don’t really care with whom you do business. I’m sure the large soda manufacturers don’t really care about “you”, the individual. They care about “you” the collective, and for them, the numbers game works.
But for the small business, you don’t have that luxury. You *must* focus on the relationship; you must get people to know, like, and trust you before they will do business with you. Which means, you must GIVE *before* you GET. Period. It doesn’t work any other way. The exception to the rule would those brave souls who run a non-profit (a legitimate one, where 90% of the money isn’t going to salaries) – those people “give” of their time, their advice, their spirit, and their energy. If you work with anyone like this, you should be spending an hour a day trying to think of ways to either help them, promote them, or find them people that will donate to the cause.
For the business person, however, you need to develop relationships. The easiest way to do this is to be more interested in what everyone else does, and less interested in talking about yourself. Be more interested in finding out what the challenges are that are facing the members of your group, and then actively look for a solution, or someone who might be able to help.
Become a connector, and learn to actually care about your othere members. When you do that, they will begin to see your value, and it will be easy for them to refer business your way. A quote I learned a long time that has stuck with me, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care” is very true, especially in a circumstance where the recommendation puts their own reputation on the line. Why would I recommend business to someone I don’t like or trust?
The bottom line here: get involved! Spend the time and effort to learn about others, and their businesses, and help them to overcome their challenges. That which you plant you shall reap; so help others, refer business to them, and then watch as your own phone begins to ring off the hook or people start seeking you out for advice, interviews, expertise, or solutions.