7 Networking Groups Every Small Business Owner Should Join

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There are many elements involved in growing a successful business and connecting with the right people is a big part of it. Building relationships can help you find new opportunities and accelerate your business growth in a way you couldn’t otherwise, especially if you find the right people to surround yourself with.

Most people understand the importance of networking, but have no idea where to start. Or they have a distorted view of what networking really is. Fortunately, there are many effective and enjoyable ways to communicate with other business owners.

The right networking group can help you build connections and learn from like-minded people. If you’re looking for some ideas, here are seven networking groups to check out:

Related: 5 Ways to Connect and Network with Other Entrepreneurs

1. Local Chamber of Commerce

A Chamber of Commerce is a local group that exists to support its members. You will join a chamber of commerce in your city and the group will advocate for the needs of the business community.

Joining a chamber of commerce is a great way to meet business owners from different industries. Most of these groups provide resources for business owners, including networking opportunities and the opportunity to hear from guest speakers.

You can check the US Chamber of Commerce Directory to find your local branch. However, there may be a monthly or annual fee to join, so be sure to plan accordingly.

2. POINT

If you’re looking for a business mentor, SCORE is a good resource to explore. SCORE has an extensive network of free volunteer mentors and provides workshops, webinars and information on starting a business. The organization is supported by the US Small Business Administration (SBA).

3. Chief

Chief is a networking group focused on supporting women in business, and its membership ranges from Fortune 500 CEOs to successful startup leaders. You don’t always know what you’re going to get when you join a networking group, but Chief provides access to a vetted community of professionals.

As a member, you will be placed in a peer group that is facilitated by an executive coach. Members also have access to seminars, member meetings and community groups. If you are interested in learning more, you can apply for membership.

4. National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE)

The National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE) is a group for small business owners and entrepreneurs. NASE provides access to educational resources typically only available to larger companies.

For example, members can receive advice on business law, healthcare and tax management. And if you need capital for your business, NASE provides small business grants and scholarships.

Related: 8 Ways to Make the Most of Networking Events

5. Business Networking International (BNI)

Business Networking International (BNI) is a global networking organization with more than 10,000 affiliates worldwide focused on the referral business.

When you join, you’ll start building relationships with like-minded people and finding opportunities through referral marketing. BNI is particularly useful for service-based business owners who rely heavily on referrals. If you would like more information about the group, you can search for your local branch.

6. Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO)

Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is a peer-to-peer networking group for entrepreneurs. EO was founded in 1987 and currently has over 17,000 members in over 60 countries. The group provides mentoring relationships, online networking and local meeting opportunities.

There are two different membership options you can choose from — local head or bridge head. Local branches host monthly events and forums, while bridge branches meet quarterly. Bridge chapters, on the other hand, allow you to make regional connections and join interest-based discussions.

7. LinkedIn Groups

If you’re looking for online networking opportunities, you might consider joining a LinkedIn group. LinkedIn Groups are a great way to build your network and make professional connections.

You can search for relevant groups directly from the search bar or you can check the LinkedIn Groups Directory. Start with one or two groups in your industry and start looking for ways to contribute.

Related: 3 Ways to Creatively Follow Up After Networking Events

How to network effectively

Networking can be helpful in growing your business, but only if you go into it with a strategy. Here are some tips for effective networking with other business owners:

  • Network Online: The easiest way to start networking is to start online. Networking in LinkedIn groups or on Twitter is free and can be a great way to build authority in your industry.

  • Attend private events: Networking online is helpful, but the best way to build relationships is through meeting face-to-face. Look for relevant events in your industry, such as conferences or trade shows. Show up to meet and network with other professionals in your industry.

  • Keep in touch: Whenever you meet someone at a business event, be sure to get their contact information. Having their email address and/or LinkedIn profile will make it easier for you to contact that person later.

  • Be selective: Finally, you can’t attend every event or talk to everyone, so your focus should be on quality, not quantity. Spreading yourself too thin will only dilute your efforts, and you can make a bigger impact by choosing which networking events to attend strategically.

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