This article was written by Rick Brewer of Wedding Business Marketing. Rick has 22+ years in marketing and selling to wedding couples and is known for his proprietary approach to the psychology of wedding buying. Rick has worked with over 2100 wedding businesses, spoken to 250 + wedding groups and regularly shares his insight on wedding industry trends and cycles.
A client of mine recently joined a local wedding association (on my recommendation) and boy did that leave us something to talk about.
Over the past five years, I have seen a rapid decline in local associations. The association my client tried out has always been a good fit for me, but when he showed up he had a very different experience. I have withheld the name of the association, so I want those of you involved in associations to take a long hard look and see if something similar is happening with your group.
Here are the top three problems I’ve noted with many networking groups:
- There are too many cliques and friend groups
- They don’t always practice what they preach
- They have too many wedding professionals in one or two categories
Too many cliques
My client is a master networker as he has led groups previously as well as has 25 years experience in going to meetings like this one. When he walked in, he was not greeted by other members and he felt like an outsider. This is one of the biggest problems I hear about with any networking groups in the wedding industry and beyond. This is actually a big problem because people are uncomfortable in these situations and gravitate to those they know. This gravitation towards cliques makes it harder for new members to feel welcomed.
Whether you are new to your networking group or are an existing member, take this part of my client’s story to heart. Remember what it was like the last time you showed up somewhere and didn’t know anyone. Wouldn’t you have appreciated if someone made an effort to make you feel welcome? Having a group of friends in a networking group is great, but remember to look beyond your own clique and reach out to other members whenever you can.
Not practicing what they preach
At this particular association meeting there was a professional panel, and every panelist agreed that being responsive is key to establishing connections in the industry. They suggested that 24 hours was more than enough time to respond. My client wanted to connect outside of the meeting after meeting them face to face, so he wrote a very professional follow up email with these folks to start building a relationship. As of this writing, 3 of the 4 panelists have yet to respond.
No matter what your professional speciality, you should practice what you preach. It’s hypocritical and disingenuous to ignore your own advice, especially in such a public setting. If you want to create professional connections, be professional and follow through with each connection you make.
Too many Pros in one or two categories
In my experiences with networking groups and associations, it seems like many groups are plagued with a lot of professionals in one service category, and it can seem excessive for those who are not in that category. I understand that there is business enough for all of these fine folks, but it can also take away from the effectiveness of the association.
Though I don’t believe anyone should be turned away from an association or group just because they fall under a certain category, it is the responsibility of the association to actively seek a better balance among its members. The entire group will benefit from a more varied congregation (unless the group is targeted toward that category, specifically), and the minority groups will feel more comfortable as they build their numbers.
While all these problems are fixable, I should also note that these problems are urgent and important (both to the members of networking groups and the groups themselves) because it reflects poorly on that group. In the case of my client, he will continue to go to the association, but how will the association thrive if others have this similar experience? We build trust when we are face to face better than any other modality, so associations and networking groups are the key place to start the trust process. Think more carefully about the networking groups you’re in and how you can improve the overall experience and value.