Networking 101: Which Type of Networking Group Should You Join

Ed Craine
July 2, 2008 — 1,303 views  
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Effective networking during a slower market will prove invaluable for mortgage brokers. With ever changing guidelines and the elimination of some products, networking may be the saving grace for brokers struggling to generate referral business during these turbulent times.

That said, remember that networking, as its name implies, will require work.  Simply joining a networking group won’t automatically earn you the referral business you seek.  You’ll have to engage in the group’s activities, or your membership in any organization will be fruitless. 

But, what might come as a surprise is that there are at least six different types of networking groups!  You’ll have to decide which types are best for you individually, but here we’ve provided a snapshot of the six different types of groups so that you can decide which will be most beneficial to your business.  By joining and actively participating in at least two of these types of networking groups, you should see a noticeable boost in your referral business. 
 
1. Casual Contact Networks
The first type of networking group is a casual contact group. These are business groups that count people from various professional groups as members. Consider your local Chamber of Commerce as a perfect example of a casual contact networking group.  This type of group generally meets monthly, and allows multiple members of the same profession in their organization. 

Like all groups, there are pros and cons to joining a casual contact networking group.  On the positive side, these groups often hold mixers, luncheons and dinners, allowing brokers to meet many people from the local community.  These groups may be great for forging referral partnerships with likeminded colleagues such as CPA’s, financial planners or attorneys.  On the downside, you’ll likely find at least one competing broker belongs to the group as well.  Even so, if you’re looking to mingle with local entrepreneurs and business owners in the community (perhaps for joint marketing purposes) this network group is probably a good choice. 

2. Strong Contact Networks
These networking groups generally meet weekly for the primary purpose of exchanging referrals.  On the upside, these groups also generally restrict membership to only one person per profession. That is, if you can identify a strong contact network in your area, who doesn’t count a mortgage broker as a member, you may be the first and only broker in this group.  What a coup that would be! 

It’s important to note that, these types of networking groups will require a greater commitment than casual contact groups.  You may find that you are required to put on a presentation at some point, and you will likely also be required to actively seek out referrals to pass along to others in the group.  However, these groups share a common goal; to earn more business through referrals, so the commitment on your behalf, will almost certainly be matched by fellow members’ commitment to providing you with quality referrals. 

3.  Community Service Clubs
A community service club will be good for business and good for your soul.  These types of networking groups, which may include such well known organizations as Kiwanis Clubs, Lions or Rotary, exist to serve the local community via giving back.  The pros to joining a community service club include, bettering your local community, making valuable contacts and often will earn good PR coverage in local media outlets.  

While it’s hard to pinpoint a downside to giving back to your community, you should be aware that these types of networking groups generally don’t promote overt networking.  However, working with others to support local charities or non profits automatically gives you common ground, with a potential referral partner who may just have some leads for a socially conscious mortgage broker. 

4. Professional Associations
Professional associations, such as the National Association of Mortgage Brokers, are those groups that count all or most of its members from the same industry.   The first benefit to belonging to one of these organizations comes from the sharing of ideas or information.  In today’s fluctuating mortgage climate, membership in a national, state or regional chapter of a professional association may help you to discover ways to overcome lending obstacles.  

You can join other professional organizations as well.  Your local board of REALTORS® may be a great professional association to join, with an opportunity for referrals beyond your wildest dreams.  Likewise, some professional associations which are wholly independent of the mortgage industry may consider you a candidate for membership, if an existing member “sponsors” you.  You might consider looking into a financial planners association, an insurance association, or even an attorneys association. 

5. Social/Business Organizations
These types of networking groups offer a unique blend of social activities combined with business and networking opportunities.  Their unofficial motto might be summed up as “all work and no play is just plain dull.” The benefits of joining this type of organization materializes in your ability to network with business colleagues while doing something fun.  The downside is that some events sponsored or hosted by a social/business organization may place strong emphasis on socializing during the events, with structured networking taking a back burner.  All in all though, these types of networking groups provide brokers with the opportunity to talk shop, all the while discussing business initiatives, supporting local charities and much more.  A great example of such a group is your local Jaycees.  They tend to be focused and professional, all the while incorporating fun into their agenda.  

6. Women's Business Organizations
Women's business organizations have been influential in shaping the nature of contemporary networking organizations. With the proliferation of women business owners in the 1970s and '80s many women formed structured, well-organized groups that met to network and provide professional support. Many made no pretenses; the members were there to network, and everything else was secondary. Surprisingly, many women's organizations allow men in their membership. In such cases, men too may truly benefit from membership and participation because he'll be more widely recognized within.

These types of groups tend to be very diverse.  The one thing they all have in common though, is that they focus on education and professional development as well as networking. Some are casual contact networks; some are strong contact networks. Others are industry-specific professional associations. The benefits of membership depend on the type of Women’s Business Organization you join.  But in general, these networking groups can provide an excellent, nonthreatening environment to focus on increasing business. 

As stated initially, if you're serious about developing referral business, there is no quick fix; you must meet people in a planned and structured way.  While only you can decide which networking groups will be the most personally and professionally rewarding, remember to join at least two different types of networking groups.  There’s definitely something to be said for not putting all of your eggs in one basket.  Give several different types of networking groups a try, and then join those that make you feel the most comfortable, and present the best business earning opportunities.  You’ll be glad you did. 

Dr. Misner is a New York Times bestselling author, Founder & Chairman of BNI (www.bni.com), and the Founder & Visionary behind the Referral Institute (www.referralintstitute.com).   Dr. Misner can be reached at [email protected] .

Ed Craine is CEO of San Francisco based Smith Craine Finance, an award winning mortgage brokerage. He was appointed Vice President of CAMB in 2007.  Ed serves as an Executive Director for BNI, and writes the column Ask Ed on www.brokerbanker.com
. Contact Ed at 415-406-2330 or [email protected]

Ed Craine

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Ed Craine is the CEO of award winning Smith Craine Finance, one of the oldest independent Mortgage Companies in San Francisco, California. A 25+ year veteran of the real estate financing industry, Ed has originated and negotiated loans in excess of $2 billion, to include both commercial and residential properties. He has simultaneously held such notable positions as Vice President of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers (CAMB), as well as serving as the Public Relations Committee Chairperson of the 5,000 member strong association during 2007, the year in which the mortgage industry received more media attention than in recent history. Ed currently also serves as 1st Regional Vice President of the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM). He will be inducted as Vice President of the Southwest Region of CCIM in September 2008.