What is the ROI for business networking memberships, really?
Whether you’re an avid fan or still aren’t sure, no-one can deny that networking is becoming more popular as a way of promoting and growing your business.
But some networking communities can take a hefty chunk out of your marketing budget each year. One national members association charges £300 as an annual registration and administration fee, and then takes £25 a month for one meeting. When it’s such a significant chunk of money each year, and a monthly commitment too, how can we trust the return on investment will be sufficient?
What is the ROI for networking, really?
Obviously, the answer to this question varies significantly depending on the business you run, the networking community you decide to join and whether the people within that community bear any resemblance to your target market.
Recently I was challenged to demonstrate the return on investment for Business Choir, my own choir/networking community, and I thought it might be useful to share some of the points I reflected on.
If the membership organisation you’re considering, like Business Choir, is a brand new branch, keep reading. As with any new company, organisation or event, there will be less people at the start. They form 'founder members'. As it grows there will be more opportunity to talk to different businesses of course, but if your only consideration is the numbers in the room, I think you’re missing an important element of being in a networking community. Whilst it is of course about monetary ROI, it is more than that, but I'll cover that in a moment.
(This next part is for anyone who thinks business doesn’t happen in a room of people singing).
I have a member in Bristol Business Choir who made £400+ in the first 3 months of joining the choir, because another choir member she'd not met previously booked her to deliver a workshop. She's gone on to gain individual clients and members for her own course totalling £1500+ in revenue over the last 12 months. This is solely from choir members alone, who she didn't know before the choir began.
In addition to getting business from choir members themselves, she's been referred many times, and her reputation has grown. This has helped her brand awareness and expert status in the community too.
This is just one members example, but I see business happening regularly within the choir even though there ‘only’ between 7 - 22 in the room. They often refer each other which brings in more business too.
But my point about it being more than just monetary ROI, as I stated earlier, is still more valid than the business it drums up. Let’s look at a few non-number related reasons joining a networking community can generate a significant ROI.
These business people share knowledge with each other. I've seen them help each other with tricky elements of business. If you struggle with your website, there’s bound to be someone more tech savvy than you. Can’t seem to attract the right people? Let me introduce you to the marketeers in the room. Want to know how to cut your own child’s hair - we have a hairdresser in our choir for that!
Sharing knowledge with each other is an excellent benefit of being part of a community like this. You share your expertise and gain respect and recognition (brilliant for referrals), and you learn from other members too.
Members occasionally come to choir upset about a situation. When they do, they’re covered with support, as well as encouragement and ideas if needed. They share their successes with each other and they're there for each other when it's hard. This, for me, is far more valuable than the monetary ROI the community might bring. It's like having a whole team around you to help and support your business.
How many years have you had a Christmas party alone? Do you ever feel a tad envious of your spouse being able to share their work related concerns and frustrations with their colleagues? A networking community like Business Choir gives you exactly that - other people who ‘get’ what it’s like to be in business. They understand the struggles and they know the wins need a good celebration. Friends at the ‘office’ can be found at communities like this.
So next time you’re considering whether to invest in a membership association like Business Choir, and you wonder whether it’s worthwhile for your business, I urge you to consider more than the monetary ROI. Who knows, you might end up having tons of fun and making friends as a result, and that’s something money can’t buy.
In case you’re interested, Business Choir is an initial one-time set up fee of £50, followed by a membership fee of £25 a month. We meet 36 times a year for rehearsals/networking, perform in the community through the year and finish at Christmas with a celebratory showcase!