“How do I know when it’s time to move on from a networking group?”

Anyone who has networked with regularity has probably wondered this. Especially if you attend a bunch of groups each month and find your time rather taxed, you may be looking for things to cut. But how to know which of them to keep and which to leave?

Here are some things to look for that are signals the group may not be useful to you anymore.

The group doesn’t have enough of the types of people most likely to help you.

No everyone in any given networking group is likely to pass you a referral. Often it’s because they’re in an industry where there just isn’t much meaningful opportunity to do so.

You’ll likely find that there are some core niches related to your industry that tend to mean the best and steadiest referral partners. Any time you attend a networking group you should be looking for these niches. If the group has too few of them, it’s less likely that this group will be valuable to you and you may end up in a situation where you feel like you’ve sown into others and aren’t seeing it in return.

There may have been more of your core niches when you first joined the group, which made it attractive. But perhaps that’s changed over time.

For instance, say that insurance agents tend to be your best referral partners because you’re an auto mechanic, but this networking group only has one insurance agent now. Maybe it used to have 4 or 5.

It happens, but it never hurts to re-evaluate a group so that if this is the case it becomes clearer to you.

The group’s growth is stale or visitors are rare.

Stability is generally a good sign. In networking groups, though, if you’ve noticed that you’ve shown up week after week for a long time and it’s always the same faces, same stories, same commercials, and same conversations, the group’s viability may have come and gone.

If members aren’t inviting others to the group as visitors it could be a sign of complacency or a lack of investment in the group on their part.

In either of those scenarios, that also tends to mean those members are less likely to pass referrals.

When people have been in one networking group for a long time it’s natural that it becomes routine for them, but sometimes that leads to an attitude of “phoning it in” where they are busier having “How was your weekend?” conversations with fellow members and giving their usual spiel rather than being focused on really generating referrals.

This can become especially true if leadership becomes detached, less involved, or complacent itself. This can lead to lower quality referrals throughout the group, favoritism, or cliquey-ness that detracts from the professionalism. (And usefulness, if we’re honest.)

Measured ROI has tapered off, or never grew.

The ROI (return on investment) ratio or % should be greater than the time and dollar investment to become part of the group.

Like any other marketing and business-building activity you do, the ROI of your networking activities is something you should measure.

Consider a few things to help you determine this:

  • What was the fee to be a part of the group?
  • What is your time investment each week to attend the meeting? How long do you stick around chatting afterward?
  • How much time do you spend doing coffee meetings with that group’s members to know them better and try to pass referrals?
  • Are there other requirements the group has for its members that take up your time?

If you’ve been tracking the referrals you’ve gotten from that group, and the ones that have become closed business, you can fairly easily get a dollar figure for the revenue value the group has for your business. When you take that number and weigh it against the above questions, does it still make sense?

For instance, if the group costs $50/month to participate and you spend an average of 3 hours per week (12 hours per month) in the group and meeting with other members — and if your billable time is worth $50/hour — the total monthly cost of this group is really $650.

If you typically get $1000+ in business from referrals each month it probably makes sense. If it’s less, even when there’s technically a profit, you may want to seek other groups to see if you can find one with a more efficient ROI.

After all, you’re better off spending those same 12 hours in a group that gets you $2000/month. Or maybe a different group requires less of your time for similar results.

The type of networking that happens in the group no longer fits with your goals or target.

Where a group meets, how it’s organized, and its setting all create context. As your business grows sometimes a setting that once seemed appealing or made sense no longer does.

Consider the most common places networking happens:

Educational Seminars — Events that usually cost money to attend and involve at least one key speaker who is presenting ideas that can help you better understand business, or your specific industry, to help you grow. Some organic networking generally happens, but learning and connecting with others in your same industry is usually the goal here.

After Work Socials — Events that happen before or after business hours with the intention of exchanging contact information with 2 or more people to discover if you can directly, or indirectly, do business with them. Often times these become more social than business-driven, and in my experience are the first to be cut when you’re looking for a cut to free up time.

Church — A social organization with people who share common views of the world around you. These people care deeply for each other and want to help their fellow man/woman with their life. This is a great place to meet business owners who can provide insight or who may be a good client for you. But this network takes a while to get into as they are a close family, and of course because doing business isn’t the primary purpose of the weekly gathering.

The Gym — This is a great place to meet people who share a passion for health. They go to the gym for the social experience and love meeting and knowing their gym mates. This may be a good place to meet referral partners or clients as well as you get to know your gym partners, especially if the nature of your business is related to health and fitness.

Referral Marketing — These are groups specifically designed with the intention of passing referrals to one another to help each other grow their business in dollars and cents. Some are free, and some have fees to join.

Learning opportunities offered are no longer useful.

Teaching portions of the networking group, learning moments, and rotating presentations are all pretty common value-adds. Over time it can be a challenge for facilitators to keep coming up with fresh angles to continue providing value.

Two typical scenarios can happen where the information provided is no longer useful to you:

  • The info was great earlier on when you were starting out, but you’ve learned a lot now and are much savvier, and the information is no longer pushing you to go beyond that. Or the group is re-covering the same information and your time is better spent on something else.
  • The information might be ok, but it’s started to seem like it’s come at the expense of referrals (e.g. the group’s time is more devoted to presentation than actual networking)