Meeting people is a part of running a business.
Word-of-mouth advertising is the most effective (and inexpensive) way to get more people spending their money at your business.
There is one time-trusted way for many business owners to generate word-of-mouth advertising:
Networking groups are a structured way for businesspeople to meet one another.
There are many different kinds of networking groups, and many different ways to network. What's right for you depends on your personality, your availability, and your type of business.
Here's a general overview of the types of networking groups you can find in Portland:
Hard Networking Groups.
You've probably got a local BNI chapter, and for the right type of professional, this kind of networking group is a steady stream of referrals. Hard networking groups only allow one type of profession to be a member at a time. A typical chapter could have a chiropractor, a naturopath, and a small business attorney, but only one representative of each field may join. This ensures that when a chapter member has a referral, it goes to the member who has reserved that space.
Many hard networking groups require monthly or annual dues, from $10 to $500.
Typical Membership: 10 to 30 professionals meeting weekly.
Soft Networking Groups
These semi-regular mixers are less formal, but still rely on the promise of referrals to keep people coming back regularly. They do not have rules on membership, and their meeting schedule may be inconstant.
Typical membership: between 5 and 150 people meeting weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
Unlike hard and soft networking groups, industry association meetings are not for trading referrals. These organizations meet to further the interests of their industry in the surrounding region.
If you are looking for business relationships inside of your own industry, instead of outside, industry associations are a great place to meet people.
Trade Show / Convention
These one-time events are great opportunities to meet many people in a specific demographic. The demographic depends entirely on the type of event.
Home and Garden shows attract homeowners with disposable income. Family-friendly shows bring families with children. A gift and collectible show will have more retirees and hobby enthusiasts.
Make a list of five types of ideal clients for your business. Where could you find all of these people in one place? Go and visit with a stack of business cards.
Matthew Koren is the President of Priority Payments Northwest, a credit card processing and payroll service provider located in Portland, OR. He runs his company, as well as partnering with a consulting practice: Causeit, Inc. You can contact him by filling out the Contact Us page, or by calling 866-402-1485, ext 750.