Not all forms of networking are created equal… you have to understand the difference between certain networks and how they operate for your business in order to determine if they’re really worth your time.
In today’s blog post I’d like to examine two different types of networks, the ‘casual contact’ network vs the ‘hard contact’ network.
They go by different names in different communities but you’ll get the idea by the time we’re done here.
First, lets talk about the casual contact network. The best example is your local chamber of commerce. You join the chamber and you can choose to interact however you want. Time commitment is minimal. Most of the events are mixers or social in nature. They’re geared towards fun and light networking. While you can meet a lot of people and get more exposure for your business – it’s often more difficult to transition your relationships to real business.
Summary: casual contact networks get you great exposure. They’re excellent for businesses like construction or the trades because in general, the sales cycle is much shorter. People don’t have to develop the same level of trust in order to do business with you.
Next, lets talk about the hard contact network. A good example is BNI. Only one business per category is allowed. You meet every week so the time commitment is bigger. The meetings and your connections are very business focused – it’s all about referrals! Your activity is tracked so all members have accountability. There’s a ton of structure to make sure the group runs smoothly.
Summary: hard contact networks get more quality, more consistent referrals. The drawback is that it’s super time intensive and commitment is non-negotiable. Hard contact networks are amazing for businesses with a longer sales cycle such as financial planning or bookkeeping. Hard contact groups allow you to build a deep level of trust over time, resulting in more referrals.
In my personal opinion, having a mix of both is really important if word of mouth and referrals are important to your business.
Being a part of a few casual contact networks, and one hard contact network is the optimal mix for getting more visibility in the marketplace, while building deeper connections.
If you liked this video you’ll love Episode 15: Five Reasons to Join the Local Chamber of Commerce