There’s a women’s entrepreneurs’ group that I joined last year. There are chapters, and bimonthly meetings, and a rigid meeting format that kind of drives me crazy. The intent of the sessions is solid: brainstorming solutions to members’ business challenges and sharing lessons learned. But there are usually too few people in the room and too many of them are business newbies.

So why did I renew my membership for a second year? Because the overall membership is expertise- and industry-diverse. 

In other words, people who aren’t like me and whose networks and customer/client bases don’t overlap my own.

Why do you network?

  • To build a referral engine?
  • To expand your connections?
  • To identify viable vendors or potential business partners?
  • To touch base with existing colleagues, contacts, or prospects?
  • To connect with your next great client/customer?

Your answer is probably “all of the above.” But here’s the challenge: You can’t accomplish this if you don’t move outside your comfort zone.

The worst thing you can do when networking is hang out with your friends.

You see it all the time: Lawyers hang out with lawyers. Doctors hang out with doctors. Marketers, plumbers, scientists… We like easy, and hanging out with “our own” is easy. But it’s not the best strategy for growing your business.

One of the biggest challenges that many businesses face is finding new business. New customers. New clients. New orders. One reason so many entrepreneurs struggle with this is that they’re spending too much time networking with peers rather than talking to the stranger who just might know (or be) their next great customer.

What’s your networking strategy?

Photo by Stefan Kloo (Flickr)