By: Jennifer Robinson
Many of us realize the importance of networking to grow our career or business. But how do you measure the success of your efforts? There are both time and financial costs with attending events, joining associations and marketing efforts to build more community and exposure. Do you simply do an analysis of the dollar figure brought in proportional to that dollar figure output? For example, if you join a networking group at a cost of $500 a year and you gain clients as a result of that membership, totaling $300 that year, was your membership a failure? Should you drop out of the group? Is it that simple? The cost/benefit analysis is one that is more complex.
Here are some tips to help you:
1. Did you actually commit?
People join groups or attend events with the best of intentions. But at the end of the year, you need to assess whether your desire to be involved was greater than your actual involvement. If the organization met 12 times that year and you only made it to two events, you may need to reassess your commitment. Further, did you schedule one on ones with other members to get to know their businesses and how you can refer them and vice versa? Did you see who might be a good strategic partner or collaborator for you? Did you put up a photo and complete member profile in the member directory so people can easily find and communicate with you? If not, decide whether you want to give it another year and fully commit or concentrate on something else and drop it.
2. Are there benefits outside of the dollar figure earned that are worthwhile?
There are some organizations that offer great member benefits that may be as valuable or more valuable than simply obtaining clients or customers. For example, can you speak to the organization as a paid member at an event? Can you write for their newsletter or publication? Is there a big audience? Are there vendor discount opportunities for members that benefit your business? Will the organization promote you on their website? Will the organization feature you on social media? These are all things to consider.
3. Have you analyzed whether this is really your target audience?
Often we really like an organization because of the people. While it is important to build relationships in business with people you like and trust, you have to think about whether the right people are in the room or if you simply look forward to socializing with the people in the room. There is a difference. If you are taking time away from your family and business to attend events, make sure there is a business purpose you are serving.
4. Do you enjoy it?
This is crucial to your success. Last year I was a member of a national networking organization that works well for many people. But I hated it. It was too regimented for me. I found I dreaded attending and only half-heartedly followed up with people and creatively promoted myself. Guess what? I quit even though I lost money by doing so. For me, it was the right move. It gave me more time in my schedule to focus on networking that I could control and that I enjoyed more. If you are not putting your best self forward, get out.
5. Does saying "yes" mean saying no to something that may make more sense?
At least once a year, look at how you are spending your time. Lots of opportunities come our way but it is about selecting the right ones. It is also about balance. Is it important for you to be home for dinner to see your children? If so, focus on morning or lunchtime events. You will feel guilty about attending events after work and your priority at that time of day is your family. Maybe you want to run a marathon this year. If you overextend yourself, when will you train? Know that it is always ok to say no to opportunities and even say no to taking on clients if it is the right thing to do for you and your business and personal goals.
I encourage everyone to read the book 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vandercam. It has really helped me to take a hard look at how I spend my time and the state of busyness versus actually making moves towards accomplishing your goals.
Jennifer Lynn Robinson is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. She conducts keynotes, workshops and seminars assisting companies, non-profits, groups and conferences to help ensure your networking is working for you. You can connect with her at @AreYouNetworked on Twitter or Instagram or at purposefulnetworking.com.