Do you (or does your firm) belong to a network, where you try to collaborate with other people and organizations?
Many consultants invest time in such networking initiatives with the goal of building relationships and generating more business opportunities. Examples include trade associations, networking groups, recurring roundtables and masterminds (conferences and one-time events do not count).
Here's what consultants are looking for when joining a networking group:
- Generate more leads and opportunities. This happens with members mostly making specific introductions or referring business to each other.
- Creating strategic partnerships. While it doesn't happen that often, sometimes members of the group might try to partner up to win larger projects, engagements that each of the members alone does not have the capacity to deliver.
- Access to insights. In some cases, the main benefit of the network comes from being in the right room and listening to the market - relevant news, trends, or best practices that might affect your business.
This is what you look for. But not what you typically get.
The hundreds of conversations I had with consulting partners made me aware that it's very hard to make these networks work well.
Part of it comes down to selecting the right groups to join. Ideally, members should sell to the same kinds of organizations that you do, know how to network, and have a large and healthy network themselves. Groups that are too large lack intimacy, and those too small are not effective (you're often better off creating your own value group).
But even when consultants find, join, and become active in a relevant network group, most of them still find they're not getting much out of it.
In your opinion, what needs to change so that these networks really benefit their members? If you're a member, what's the best way to take advantage of any network you belong to?