On Friday, we talked about online networking, all its benefits and how you can create your own professional and profitable online network.

I think that makes today the perfect day for talking about what you should be looking for as you search for a network to join.

You'll find that some professional networks are all talk…you'll get in there and experience little or no communication, engagement and activity.

You'll find that others are focussed in a direction that doesn't apply to your brand.

You'll find that others are filled with professionals who don't share your level of motivation, who don't have the expertise you need, whose lists do not include your ideal customers, and who are travelling on different paths than you.

So how can you know these things before getting wrapped up in the wrong network?

The key is to ask the right questions.

And I'm about to share those questions with you.

Vetting your Next Network

The right professional network for you comes with lots of benefits. Get involved with the wrong one, and you'll waste valuable time, energy…and maybe money.

Here is a list of questions I suggest you find the answers to (or ask directly) before making a commitment to any professional network:

  • Who is Admitted? If the answer is anyone, back away slowly. When no criteria are used to control the type and level of professionals in a network, then you're taking a big risk. You're unlikely to find valuable connections. When members are screened, you can feel more assured that you'll find people there with goals and paths similar to yours.
  • What is the Cost? If the answer is free, I urge you to proceed with caution. Many business owners sponsor professional networks for free, with the sole intention of marketing their own products to the group. There are exceptions to this rule, like the How to Build a Brand Facebook group and others that legitimately use community and professional engagement to open doors to bigger things.
  • Is the Network Buzzing? business-networkAsk to see the daily interactions in the network. Are there long spells in which no one is posing questions, asking for referrals and offering advice? Are people asking questions and having trouble getting answers? The activity level of any network is an indication of the engagement experienced there. If the network isn't buzzing, you might want to find a different hive.
  • Are Internal Referrals Common? In other words, are members of the network recommending fellow members to those both inside and outside of the group? This is huge, because it indicates a self-contained economy and increases the likelihood that you will receive referrals.
  • Are the Members Part of Other High-Quality Networks? Networking is a complex system of connections, and the more high-quality connections the members have, outside of the network you're scrutinising, the higher the likelihood that your brand will be recommended in large circles.
  • Are Joint Ventures Supported? Ask the director (or a long-time member) if they know of any joint ventures that have been borne of the network. You may not be thinking of entering into a joint venture now; however, if you find just the right brand, you could be off and running in a whole new realm.
  • Do the Members Have Fun? Business is tough, so why wouldn't you want to have fun whilst working? In any group, laughter and down time is necessary for getting creativity and innovation flowing. Finding a network that understands that can be invaluable.
  • Do Veterans Take Pride in Newbies' Accomplishments? This is huge, because it gives insight into the level of community support that exists in the network. Some networks are filled with entrepreneurs who are opportunists, simply looking for their next easy deal. Others find their strength in numbers, and in mutual support.
  • Is Giving Rewarded? Are all the same people making referrals, and offering advice and support? Or is there a healthy balance of back-and-forth, with a wide variety of focussed professionals giving targeted advice in their areas of expertise? The best networks will operate under the umbrella of Givers Gain…so everyone wins.

I hope these questions will guide you in choosing a professional network that is a good fit for you and your brand. Please avoid jumping in blindly, as you are sure to waste your valuable time—time that you'll never get back.

On the other hand, if you choose the right network, you will save time, save effort, save money…and increase your credibility, visibility and profitability. Who doesn't want that?

If you're on the lookout for a professional network, may I suggest the Brand Builders Club? Built for freedom-focussed entrepreneurs of purpose-driven businesses who want accountability that leads to credibility, visibility and profitability? Not everyone is admitted; however, we do invite all prospective members to email me at [email protected] to schedule a call to determine if the club is a good fit for you.

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