Participating in a business networking group is to some extent like being a farmer. You plant the seed in the hope that you will reap the fruit.
In a way, paying your membership fee for the networking group is like planting the seed. Like paying the membership for the gym. Like registering in the Spanish language academy. It's a great first step. Nothing less, and nothing more.
Unless you water the seed, protect the land from animals in the field, and create the right conditions for growth, you may expect something that will never occur.
So it goes with your networking efforts. Let me tell you the story of Josh Van Damme (imaginary name). Josh is a very nice guy. He owns a printers. Very good at what he does. He joined BTB Club in January 2019. In his interview he responded that his commitment with being on time, participating, and taking the initiative in helping fellow members was a 10 out of 10!
Almost every week Josh he was receiving plenty of internal and external referrals. Business cards, brochures, folders, photo calls, roll ups, signs, you name it. Happy days!
After being late ish most of the times, he started to miss most meetings. He was great at asking for referrals, but he very rarely brought referrals for anybody else. Well, maybe it was too soon. Perhaps he did not have the time to get to know the new members that joined while he stopped coming.
But not to worry. Fellow members understood that he was receiving good opportunities and great connectors while he was struggling to reciprocate. Never mind taking the initiative!
What about helping his colleagues in the networking group by bringing visitors that could help them? That requires way less effort than giving referrals, right? To be honest, Josh did talk to a few people during his first quarter as a member. Maybe he spoke to four or five people? He didn't actuallly send them an invite on email with the information about the networking group. He sort of said something. but never got round to send the link for the visitor to register to a meeting. So he actually brought zero visitors and gave almost zero referrals.
His colleagues at the networking club started to feel a little bit uneasy. He would have SWOT exchange meetings with them and promise to set up meetings and referrals. But nothing would actuallly happen. Josh asked for referrals very specifically. Insisted week after week asking for the same names... and yet did not find the time to come to the meetings regularly or work for his team mates.
After only three months of not using the tools available to build relationships, but to hunt for referrals, he was offered by the Experience Coordinator the opportunity of having again a mentor to help him improve his participation. He said he was too busy with so many referrals he was receiving at BTB Club. And he complained that creating referrals was challenging. He also shared that it was so difficult to find visitors or substitutes when he could not come!
The Experience Coordinator in his BTB Club kindly explained to him The Law Of The Vegetables:
"Referrals are like vegetables. You can only hunt vegetables once. Only when you take care of the relationships fairly and properly, you get permission to enjoy them for life." - Nathan Manzaneque
In a very honest way, Josh was explained that his participation in his networking club was not totally balanced. The Law of Reciprocity was being broken when he failed to honor his commitment to show up, and help others by putting effort to bring visitors and referrals for others.
Josh felt very uncomfortable. It wasn't easy being addressed in such a direct and firm way. But the Experience Coordinator actually had a point. He could feel she was right as she was being fair. He thought hard about it. And then he felt a bit embarrased.
Then he thought about the great human and professional quality of his fellow members. The great attitude most of them had. The honest sincere interest in helping each other. What the heck! They deserved a bit of his time. They were showing interest and trying to get to know him better. The problem was that often he was not there to hear their presentations, the requests they had, or even to receive referrals himself!
Josh made a decision. He walked up to the Experience Coordinator the following meeting. And he told her "Hey! I wanted to thank you for your help the other day. I can see that I can improve in the way I contribute to the group. And I am willing to make it. So yeah! Any help I can get is welcome. I am happy to work with a mentor and up my game a little."
Nobody remembers now the time when Josh was 'hunting'. He now takes the lead in making connections during the week and bringing visitors to BTB Club. And he has learned how to make it part of his everyday conversation. He's even having fun with it. And guess what? He's one of the top contributors in terms of referrals.
"A farmer's mindset works best in referral marketing that a hunter's."- Nathan Manzaneque