Your network or your staff?

As a small business owner, being in a networking group gives you resources you might not ordinarily have. For example, the public relations firm owner who now writes an e-newsletter for the CPA who is a member of the same networking group. While that is certainly a benefit of a networking group, it can also be a detriment if people view their fellow members as potential customers first, lead sources second.

Recently, a residential real estate broker approached My Pinnacle Network about visiting a meeting. As a courtesy and caveat, the realtor was reminded that My Pinnacle Network is a business-to-business networking and it might not be the best fit for what she was looking for. The response was a bit defensive:

“I’ve been a member of business-to-business networking groups with the same professions as the ones in yours and I passed lots of referrals. I hired the web guy for my website and the accountant did my taxes…”

You get the idea. Nowhere in the response was mention of leads or referrals passed, probably because it did not happen. Why? Because people whose customers are consumers travel different traffic lanes than b2b businesses. Consequently, it’s a bit more difficult to pass a lead or referral.

That’s not to say people in b2b networking groups aren’t guilty of the same thing. You can even make the very valid argument that there’s no better way to get to know your fellow members than to hire them for your company. Still, it’s a very distinct and different approach to sit down for a one-on-one with a fellow member and be more concerned with “how can I help you” than “who do you know, here’s how I can help them.”