I’ve just thrown yet another letter inviting me to a networking meeting in the bin.
Not a week goes by where I don’t get a phone call, an email or a client inviting me to join a networking group.
Several of the groups that have sent an invite assure me that I will be the group’s sole "social media consultant" thereby "locking out" my competitors. But here’s the thing, I don’t want to lock out my competitors, I want to work with them!
Take my industry for example. You can be a social media consultant, but you may specialise in either consumer or B2B, you may do training but not implementation, you may deal with small large businesses or you may be focused on the third sector, your expertise may focus on LinkedIn or it might be on business blogs.
But it doesn’t only apply to social media. I have in the past referred business to more than one IT support company, because the two businesses supported different geographical areas. And even with trades people, I have referred different plumbers to different customers because one had a slot available and the other was fully booked.
Having a networking group with "competitive" businesses has a number of advantages:
- Competition is healthy: Enables the people in room to choose the consultant that is most appropriate for them. This creates a far more dynamic group.
- Competition gets you out of your comfort zone: As you’re forced to think very carefully about what differentiates you from your competitors.
- Your competitors can turn out to be your biggest referrers: Start talking to similar businesses in the room and you may find out that you are offering complementary services.
So if you’re looking for business, try and find networking meetings that are open rather than closed. Don’t feel threatened if someone from the same industry walks into the room. They may well have business for you, or they could be helping your customers!