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I started a networking group about two and a half years ago, Greater Oak Brook Business Leaders. The group started small, but over time it has grown into 1,000 members. Creating and organizing the group took a lot of time in the beginning stages, but now much of my business results directly or indirectly from it.
I use a linkedin group to organize Greater Oak Brook Business Leaders online. Linked groups are an excellent way for organizing and technological novices to start a group. Administrators of a linkedin group can email all members of their group in a blast announcement. Thus, new members join the group’s email distribution list simply by joining the linkedin group page. Linkedin group pages also have polls, which I use to have members RSVP for events. Another great thing about linkedin is that many of the professionals you’ll want to meet are on the network and have some familiarity with it. I also suggest buying a domain name (www.greateroakbrookbusinessleaders.com) and pointing it to your linkedin group page. That will make it easier for prospective members to find your group page and will make your group look more professional.
However you organize the group online, the group must regularly meet offline to be successful. Know what your business development objectives are, around shape the membership around those objectives. In the beginning, you will have to accept whoever you can get so that the group can get a critical mass. Eventually, you’ll be able to be more selective, and you can limit membership to those fitting certain criteria. To encourage senior level decision makers to participate, I have no membership dues, no attendance requirements, and no referral requirements. Usually the most desirable contacts have the busiest schedules and thus are the least likely to make a serious commitment. To get a CEO as a member, you have to both increase the desirability of the group AND decrease the commitment it presents.
At present, my networking group has a membership that consists primarily of decision makers, located mostly in my market. Most of them have only attended one meeting, but attendance is not the point of the group. The group allows me to start a relationship with prospective clients (office tenants in the western suburbs). After someone joins the group, I connect with them on linkedin, usually getting their personal email and/or mobile phone number. Then, I call them – this call is much more likely to be answered than a traditional cold call. I start the conversation by welcoming the new member to the group and answering their questions. Then, I ask about their office use and get an approximate lease expiration date and determine the appropriate real estate contact. Professionals in other fields could also use this approach for starting a relationship and obtaining information. I am happy to share the lessons I have learned in organizing this group, or to talk about the commercial office market (I am a tenant representative broker). Please contact me at (630) 805-2463 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can check out Greater Oak Brook Business Leaders at www.greateroakbrookbusinessleaders.com.
At Golden Group Real Estate, we specialize in tenant representation for office users in the Chicago area, helping local business owners find office space and negotiate lease and purchase agreements. We never represent landlords, so we are prepared to negotiate aggressively on behalf of our tenant clients.
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