Starting or joining a business referral group is a great way of growing your business, building up a database of contacts and developing long-term business relationships. We know a lot of groups on Meet&Mine (www.meetandmine) meet virtually (online, social media, web conferences etc) and grow their network using these online resources and communications, but there is something to be said about the good-old face to face meetings.
Meetings are a chance to catch up with business based friends, discuss work and most importantly share referrals or how to generate referrals. (Honestly discussing how you can build simple win-win relationships with another business minded individual can generate powerful growth for each of you).
I’ve found in the past few years, by improving our meeting format, it can help grow the circle as well as improve opportunities for members. So I’ve put down here how we’ve been running our own group 7ABN.com, which currently meets fortnightly. Feel free to mix up the formula to what suits your members and availability;
Firstly, a group should have at least 2 admins, who co-ordiante meetings, ensure that some kind of structure is followed and that meetings are as productive as possible. It’s a good idea for Admins to catch up in-between scheduled meetings to chat about the group and plan for future sessions. Our group currently runs 3 admins. We tend not to use titles like President, Secretary or anything formal like that, as each member is just as valuable as any other, pending of course they are giving back to the group in terms of business relationships. How you title these key members is up to you, but I do recommend, as we do, share the load year to year. After some or all of the admins have put in for a year, switch one or all of them out and give others a chance to shine and be responsible for the group. Just make sure in transition, you’re handing over the reigns to people who are capable and have delivered strong referrals for others in the group and aren’t just in it for the fancy title on their bio / resume.
Breakfast Business Network
(Times are rough but make sure it lasts no longer than 1 hour and 15 minutes)
7:15 AM – 7:30AM – Catch Up
The first 15 minutes of a meeting can be time for the group to have an informal catch up. If there are any new members who have come to the meeting, this time can also be used to introduce them and to make sure that everybody knows everybody.
7:30AM – 7:40 AM – Elevator Pitch or 2 Week Summary
To start a meeting each group member should give an elevator pitch and an example referral they would like taking no more than 1 minute OR to explain what has happened in their business in the last 2 weeks and any interesting projects that they have worked on. (Noting elevator pitches are great, but they do get boring week in and week out with the same group of members). This will give the group an insight into what each member does and provides a snap shot of their business and how it operates. By discussing work done within the 2-week period (or how ever long since the group last met) its possible to gain a more specific understanding of each group member’s expertise and the work that they do. It’s particularly important that new group members do the elevator pitch as it allows everyone to get to know them, their areas of interest, and what they bring to the group.
This exercise is great because, lets say the online company (like us) in the group might highlight a social media campaign that they have worked on over the last 2 weeks and provide some of the key details of this process. Another group member might know a business that is looking to launch a social media campaign and requires help in doing so. These brief ‘pitches’ at the beginning of each meeting can allow for business to be shared between group members and can help to uncover new business opportunities and the potential for collaboration.
7:40AM – 7:50 AM – Presentation, Discussion or Break-outs
Meetings can then take a few different directions and its good to mix it up from meeting to meeting and keep things interesting.
Option 1. is for one or two group members to give a 10 Minute presentation and a more detailed account of their business, a particular service they provide or an insight into something interesting that is happening in their particular industry.
Option 2. is for a group member to put forward a topic for discussion. Group members can express their own ideas and understandings gained through their particular area of business and share them with the group. This provides a platform for discussion and allows everybody to learn from differing perspectives.
Option 3. is to have breakouts, divide into smaller groups (2,3 or 4s) or have 1-on-1 break-out discussions. This can be an opportunity for group members to further discuss each other’s business and the services they provide or recap on previously shared referrals.
7:50AM – 8:00AM – Meet Ups & Thanks
Time should always be allowed for group members to run through their meet ups, converted referrals and the admins to review the referrals leaderboard (who is giving good referrals) / new business gained through the group. Its important to have this time for people to thank each other for referrals as it gives everyone in the group, especially new members, a chance and understanding of the importance of consistent business growth and what can be achieved through mutual sharing and referring. As you go around the table, you may also like to remind people what sort of referral you are looking for in your business.
8:00AM – 8:10AM – Future Events & Final Discussion Points
The final 10 minutes of the meeting can be used to discuss any upcoming events or meetings that could be relevant for the group, as well as touching on some discussion points to go away with. These discussion points could be in the form of questions such as, what type of new members are we looking for to join this group?, do we need an accountant, a lawyer or a marketer ? Or, who can we bring to this group to present to us e.g. a business expert ? Also and most importantly, when is the next evening dinner or drinks night planned… can’t be all work and no play!
Finishing on these points can allow the group to progress from meeting to meeting and people can leave with something to think about before the next meeting.
Also.. We recommend someone (possibly an admin) taking notes of key points in this last section so it can be emailed and followed up to the group, makes people more responsible for following through.
If you’re looking for software to run your business and networking referrals, check out – www.meetandmine.com