How to choose a common interest tribe that adds value to your business
To achieve positive ROI from your common interest tribe participation you need to ensure your 3Cs are in synch with the tribe’s 3Cs
If any of one of the three Cs is out of synch, your time will be wasted. You’ll end up frustrated. Disappointed. Cynical.
The three essential aspects that need to be present in order for you to generate ROI from your common interest tribe participation are:
- CONNECTING THREAD – the single CONNECTING THREAD that joins the community together must be critically and vitally important to you.
- CORE VALUES – your CORE VALUES must align with the common non-negotiable CORE VALUES of other tribe members.
- CONTRIBUTIONS – your CONTRIBUTIONS must consistently add value to various individuals and the tribe as a whole.
Many reasons for being part of a common interest tribe or group
However, in all my years of facilitating various like-minded professional common-interest groups and tribes there are three benefits I hear most often.
Ironically, “to increase my referral business” usually starts off as being the prime motivator to connect at a common interest group level. However, over time this benefit then appears to become more of a bonus than the ulterior motive to continue to participate.
The three top benefits of participating in a common interest group are:
- A network you can reach out to. People who can help you navigate choppy waters whom you know you share common values with.
- Brainstorming. People you can reach out to and connect with to bounce ideas off; people with whom you share common values with.
- Community with experience & wisdom. Suddenly, you’re no longer professionally isolated. You can bet your very last dollar that there’s someone in the tribe who’s been-there-done-that (or been-there-felt-that) whose wisdom you tap into.
Belonging to a common interest tribe works for:
- Introverts or extroverts.
- Online or offline.
- Old hands or newbies.
However, belonging to a common interest tribal community will show no positive ROI when:
- It’s all about you.
- You expect to receive.
- Your core values differ to those of the community.
Common interest tribal communities are subsets of society
You’re probably already an informal participant in lots of common interest communities without even realising it.
Referral marketing (one measure of positive ROI) happens when the original reason for you being a member of any community subset is values-driven or values-based.
Here’s the kicker. You are more likely to receive referrals from your common interest community tribe when you don’t give two proverbial hoots whether you receive a referral or not.
Ergo, you participate in a specific tribal community because the community is important to you and the referrals you receive are just icing on the cake.
This means that if you front-up to tribe events with the sole purpose to get referrals it (probably) won’t happen. Because you:
- Have an ulterior motive.
- Are using others.
- Aren’t adding value.
ROI happens when the common interest tribe community fabric is diverse
One complaint I hear most often is “I feel like I’m wasting my time – I’m not getting any business from being part of this group”.
To receive referrals from a tribe you need to be a part of the right type of tribe community.
Referrals happen when you belong to a community that is of like-mind; not of like-industry.
Belonging to a professional peer group (eg, a law society, industry association, a LinkedIn group for your trade or profession) is unlikely to result in referrals.
Peer-provided referrals can happen but are the exception rather than the rule.
It therefore makes sense to measure the ROI you receive from peer communities as one of education rather than sales leads.
Each common interest tribe community has its own gravitational pull
Think about the various subsets you belong to.
I’m sure the chances are high you didn’t consciously go out and select these communities. Instead each tribe community somehow called to you on a much deeper level.
Or, if you did consciously decide to seek out a tribe you did so for a completely different primary reason other than business referrals.
For example, you may have joined Toastmasters because you originally wanted to improve your public speaking skills. But after time and because you added value you started to receive business referrals from other Toastmasters.
The gravitational pull of each community is one you feel comfortable orbiting in.
Participation is a doing word: a verb
Anyone can be a member of a networking group. You sign up, pay your membership fee, receive your literature and you’re officially a member.
However, being part of a thriving & flourishing common interest tribe requires participation. And participation is a verb: it’s a doing word.
Therefore, the operative word is participation. In my humble opinion being a participant takes a lot more commitment and energy than being a member.
Anyone can be a member of a networking group.
But to turn a networking group into a thriving common interest tribe community requires the x-factor and participation.
Common interest tribe community participants recognise and acknowledge each other
Whenever truckies flash their indicators on/off to each other, they’re saying ‘hi’.
Motorcyclists do it. They raise one arm in an informal salute to each other.
When runners are out running they say hi to other runners.
Ditto walkers to walkers.
But without the active participation of being a trucker, or a motorcyclist or runner or walker or whatever no one knows you belong to that tribe …
It’s only when you’re participating and doing that the rewards happen.
The more specific the subset tribe, the more impressive the ROI
I can very loosely be described as a cyclist.
I say loosely because although I own several bikes and I ride them, I do so because I know it’s good for me.
Not because I’m off-the-scale passionate about cycling.
In saying this however, I’ve still burnt enough rubber and clocked up enough km to be able to hold a reasonably intelligent conversation with other participants of the cycling tribe.
Cyclists are a subset of exercisers.
Runners are also a subset of exercisers.
Sometimes each will acknowledge the other (usually when one person is an active participant of both subsets).
However, it is more likely that a cyclist will recognise and acknowledge another cyclist than a runner.
Within the subset of Cyclists are more subsets:
Roadies – they’re the drop-handle, skinny tyres, clipped-into-their-pedals only ride on the road cyclists. Generally speaking they seem to have a need for speed. The destination (usually the finish line) is what’s important to them. They have all the gear and many have colour coordinated outfits that match their carbon-fibre steed.
Recreational & commuters – these guys’n’gals are mostly about comfort. They cycle because they enjoy it. They have fatter tyres, flat handlebars and may be identified because they ride with a backpack, paniers or basket. It’s all about the journey, not so much about the destination.
MTB-ers – these guys’n’gals are about the adventure. Their bikes are heavy-duty off road that weigh a tonne and getting dirty is par for the course. Their bikes have shock absorbers and disc brakes.
Somehow, if all of these men and women were put into one room, they would naturally find themselves in one of three distinct subgroup tribes.
Each would feel the gravitational pull of their specialist community. In no time at all they’d be speaking a language that would appear somewhat foreign to non-participants.
Remember I said that I can loosely be described as a cyclist?
This is the important part when it comes to business ROI expectations from my participation inside the cycling community tribe.
Cycling doesn’t really light me up all that much. However, it does light me up (somewhat) when compared to the alternative of being unfit and unhealthy.
I rarely enjoy cycling while I’m out riding.
It’s only after I’m back home and I can tick off my exercise requirement for the day that I’m pleased I’ve been out for a ride.
I ride simply because it’s easier on my arthritic joints than running and it gets me outside in the fresh air.
Therefore, I’d be naïve to expect to receive business referrals from joining a cycling tribe.
Why? Because my attitude towards cycling won’t sing to other business owners who are mad-crazy-passionate about cycling.
If I did receive a referral from being a member of a cycling tribe it would be the exception rather than the rule.
Why? Because I’ve broken the first cardinal tenet of the cycling community. I’ve allowed the connecting thread that keeps everyone together (passion for cycling) to become frayed at my junction. And what’s worse – I don’t care my end is frayed.
I’ve joined running groups over the years. My attitude to running – actually my whole attitude to exercise (!) – is one of necessary evil rather than heart-felt passion.
It’s therefore no wonder that I’ve never (ever!) received any business referrals as a result of belonging to any running clubs.
In this case, running was the common thread that held the community together.
Running wasn’t that important to me (health and fitness are, but running per se, isn’t).
Not in the same way it was important to other members of that running community. For me, it was a means to an end (fitness) only.
If I never had another conversation about running again would I be sad? Probably not. For other members of that tribe they would be heartbroken. But I wouldn’t.
It was no wonder I never received any referral business.
The single connecting common thread wasn’t that important to me
I hope this is starting to make sense to you?
If you aren’t showing any positive ROI from your tribe participation you need to ask yourself what your attitude is to the tribe’s connecting threads.
If you’re not prepared to go to the ends of the earth to protect the thread at your end then it’s time to sever the connection or alter your ROI expectations.
Your core values need to be in synch with other tribe participants
Let’s stay with running for a little bit longer…
Let’s say I was a chain-smoking, junk-food eating, binge-drinking wannabe runner.
I would only last just so long in that group before my reasons for participation were called into question. And rightly so.
Sure, it’s okay to seek out a tribe with aspirations of wanting to adopt the positive attributes of participants, but if your actions (or inactivity) speaks louder than your words, discordance will occur.
Similarly, if other tribe participants were soooo into their running that it meant they run even in the rain, and even in winter, and even in the dark and even in the early morning whereas I’d just rather roll over and snooze the alarm until the rain stopped … well, you can see how my values are misaligned with those of the rest of the tribe.
If you join a common interest group and your core values and/or belief systems don’t match the group’s you’ll end up miserable and cynical.
If you aren’t showing any positive ROI from your tribe participation you need to ask yourself how your core values align with others within the tribe.
If the values of the tribe leave you feeling ho-hum it’s time to sever the connection or ask yourself whether you’re prepared to adopt the tribe’s values as your own.
The VALUE of the CONTRIBUTIONS you make to the tribe
You’ve probably heard the saying “givers get”.
But what does that actually mean and how can you continue to give without bankrupting your business?
When it comes to tribe participation it means contributing to the group as a whole so that it is richer as a result of the value only you can add.
Rich doesn’t necessarily mean as measured only in monetary terms.
No one will expect you to give away everything you do for free. Nor will they respect you if you do.
However, you can have an open and inviting attitude.
Having an AMA (ask me anything) approach to life means you’re more likely to make friends and influence people than someone who is miserly with their knowledge and skills.
If you join a common interest tribe solely for what you can get out of it, then expect to receive nothing in return.
Givers do not like takers.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for takers to start getting a reputation for themselves.
Paying it forward is a great way to do business.
According to Adam Grant of Wharton University, givers are happier and end up as winners in the corporate world.
For more information read his New York Times and Amazon best-selling book Give and Take. Give and Take has been described as:
- one of Fortune’s must read business books;
- Harvard Business Review’s ideas that shaped management; and
- Washington Post’s books every leader should read.
The difference between business networking groups and common interest tribe communities
Business Networking Groups
Usually have a fee component and membership obligations.
If you belong to a business networking group and you’re starting to ask yourself whether the time, effort and/or financial outlay are worth it, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine whether remaining as a member is worthwhile.
I’m going to assume here that you know who your ideal client is.
Who are the members?
If the group is an industry / professional peer group then the chances are high you will not receive any referrals from your membership.
Think about it: how often do you refer your professional (competitor) peers?
What are the values of the group?
Visit the network’s website and ask around.
The values include attendance requirements, frequency, venue and time of formal meetings. If any of these jar or don’t work with your diary your attendance will be sporadic. You’ll start letting life-gets-in-the-way events take precedence over your attendance.
As well as documented values it’s also to take notice of what you see actually happening. Sometimes the written values of the tribe may be diametrically different to what is actually happening at meetings.
Does the one common connecting thread light you up?
If you’re ho-hum about the thread that holds the group together, your contributions will be equally ho hum.
Are you prepared to contribute and enhance the overall intellectual capital of the group?
If you’re not prepared to add value your ROI will be zero or negative.
Go for quality over quantity
If you’re a member of too many groups you’re going to run yourself ragged trying to add value to each one. You’ll know when you’ve reached the point of ‘ragged’. You’ll be spreading yourself too thin and (probably) won’t be adding value to any group you belong to.
Think “circles of influence & connections” rather than “customers”
If you join a group with the expectation of selling your product or service to everyone in the group you’ll fast outstay your welcome.
Instead think 6-degrees of connection away. Your goal should be to wow the socks off the members of your group so that s/he’ll refer you to their circles of influence – six degrees away.
Common Interest Tribe Communities
Yes, I belong to various networking groups. However, I’ve found that, by far, the best word of mouth business I receive originates from the common interest tribe communities I participate in.
Because I know special interest tribe communities work for generating positive business ROI I regularly host two special interest tribe events in different places around the country.
You’ll know if participating at either of these tribe two events is for you because you’ll be able to feel each tribe’s gravitational pull.
Mysteriously you’ll hear it sing inside your heart.
How do I know this? Because that’s what being part of a special interest tribe community is all about.
For women in business – Connected Women – for women who are self-employed, team leaders, managers, CEOs, volunteers, corporate employees or work in the not-for-profit or government sectors.
For Christians who work – God at Work – for Christians who would like to reach out and connect with other Christians in the workplace. Christians who are self-employed, team leaders, managers, CEOs, volunteers, corporate employees or work in the not-for-profit or government sectors.
ACTION STEPS: What to do at a tribe event
The following CHAT steps will help bring about a positive ROI on your participation at tribe events:
C – CONNECT and find COMMON ground in order to build rapport.
H – HELP – what can you do that will help other members of the tribe without making a sale?
A – ASK lots of questions. Find out as much as you can so that you can help other tribe members (without selling anything).
T – TRUTH – to thine own self be TRUE. Make sure that you are in synch with the tribe’s 3Cs.
I just looooove answering questions so please (!) – send me an email with your question, frustration, query – I’d welcome the opportunity to be able to help.
Let’s connect at LinkedIn
If we’re not connected at LinkedIn yet I’d certainly welcome the opportunity of adding you to my professional network. I’d enjoy hearing that you’ve read this post when you send the connection request, too.
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