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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   June 2006

Build Your Network, Build Your Business

Networking groups can help professionals make new contacts and share referrals

Mortgage originators should be doing everything they can to attract new business and referrals. Most would agree that traditional methods are less than fun, and the results are often slow. And advertising and lead-purchasing programs are expensive and unpredictable.

How can originators develop a steady client base and referrals other businesspeople without investing months, years or a fortune in advertising dollars? One of the best grass-roots marketing systems is a professional networking group.

Every loan officer, salesperson and small-business owner should be in a networking group. They offer many benefits, from making new contacts and referral-sharing to getting business tips and emotional support.

Developing new relationships

The key to success in most businesses is relationships — it’s not what you know, but who you know. New contacts are the lifeblood of any business, and business-networking groups offer a low-pressure way to meet new people.

Networking groups are also a great way to build relationships that result in profits. Expectations can be clear so you don’t feel like you’re “just socializing,” hoping that something will come of it and afraid to ask for business.

These groups are not just for referrals for new business, either. Members can also make new connections that will be important in their social lives and in their community. They may find new employees, investors and vendors.

Further, many networking groups bring in guest speakers who can be a wealth of resources and information. Your networking group can also be the best place to practice a new presentation.

Through these groups, professionals can develop an emotional support network and have a ready-made sounding board for new ideas. Plus, using the services and products from fellow group members can save you time, and there is often a member-to-member discount involved that saves you money and ensures quality of service. Meetings also often include a facilitator, a guest speaker and member introductions or “elevator speeches.”

Choosing a networking group

There are numerous factors to consider when seeking the right networking group. Look for one that has solid leadership and an effective system in place for meetings. The group should track the results of each meeting and of the group in general.

Guests should also be allowed a couple of visits before they decide whether they will join a group. Membership fees should be reasonable and affordable. The organization should provide marketing materials, Web sites and other helpful materials to its members. Essentially, the group that you eventually join should fit your style and your expectations.

There are also some warning signs for which to look out. This includes groups that move around a lot or that do not have a stable member base. The group doesn’t have to be especially big, but it should show signs of growth with visitors coming through on a regular basis.

The group’s leader should show commitment to the mission of passing referrals and should not let meetings degenerate to a social event or “group therapy” session. Direction and expectations for meetings should be clear to all members.

Your added horsepower might be just the thing to turn a good group into a great group, so keep your possible contribution in mind as you look around. In networking, the currency with which you purchase your referral is the referral you give away.


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