While women-only groups provide support and opportunities, female founders should not necessarily only network with other ladies.
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As a female entrepreneur, everywhere I go these days there is opportunity to connect with other women in business. Women are escaping from their corporate jobs to go out on their own, stay-at-home moms are looking for ways to make money and in general, women seem to be very attracted to the entrepreneur path. Indeed, there are 114 percent more women-owned businesses in the U.S. than there were 20 years ago.
To go along with this rise in female entrepreneurship, the number of women-focused resources and networks has also increased. But should we, as women, solely focus on these gender-specific groups to take our career and entrepreneurial journey to the next level?
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While there is data that shows that networking in women’s groups is beneficial in many ways, the problem, especially for female entrepreneurs, is becoming too comfortable, and allowing that comfort to limit our earnings potential.
Here are three reasons why all-female networking may be a revenue trap.
1. You aren’t reaching all demographics.
If you’re a woman in business, are you relying only, or mostly, on female networking groups? The research says yes. Women are more than five times more likely to have networks that are mostly female, according to the Women in the Workplace 2017 report. The reasons for being part of women-focused network groups runs the gamut — everything from being a supportive community to feeling empowered and improving confidence.
But if that’s your exclusive source of community, is it in the long term good for you, your career or your business? The same report tells us probably not. “Because men typically hold more senior-level positions, this means women are less likely to get access to people who can open doors for them.” Similarly, when it comes to having doors opened for women in business, we are talking not only about climbing the corporate ladder, but also the economic one.
If you’re looking to maximize your revenue, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and start attending mixed-gender networking groups, in addition to your women-only groups. It’s a great way to find your next mentor, referral source, client or business deal.
2. You aren’t maximizing your profit potential.
When it comes to the economic side of business ownership, women are still lagging behind. Even though woman-owned businesses accounted for 39 percent of all businesses in the U.S. in 2017, those same businesses were only bringing in 4 percent of the total revenue.
How does that play into female-only networking groups? By attending only women’s networking groups we are potentially cutting off half your potential customers: men.
Related: The Art and Science of Networking (Infographic)
Networking groups that include males will provide you with a low-cost, low-risk opportunity to discover what marketing messages work with a male market, or even if it it is necessary to have a separate marketing message. Even better, when you can use a group to make connections that result in trust, tapping into these newly-formed relationships can help you discover angles and areas of business you might be missing out on.
3. You aren’t informed about market opportunities.
The effectiveness of your pitch for your product or service with both men and women tells you about the value of what you have to offer. Nail it in both groups, you can’t go wrong, and you can then see the potentially exponential results of opening avenues of untapped revenue, and a valuable improvement to your marketing messages, including having men as advocates for your company.
A macro example of this is the cosmetic industry and its realization that traditional “for women” companies are opening up their campaigns to men, and are tapping revenue sources previously unknown. And rightfully so. The male grooming market is expected to grow to $60.7 billion by 2020, up from $17.5 billion in 2015. Companies that have failed, and continue to fail to recognize the marketing and sales potential will lose out on a bonanza.
In my own experience coaching business leaders, focusing on both genders in my client marketing and networking efforts results in a much higher return on investment, as men can, of course, be very good clients and willing to invest in themselves. Specifically, targeting men as clients in my company brings a 30 percent revenue boost.
Related: 5 Unorthodox Networking Tips
As I stated previously, one of the greatest benefits of a networking group is that it is a low-cost, low-risk place to learn what marketing messages work, for both women and men.
I’m not advocating that you give up your woman’s networking group, or that you give up focusing on a female demographic as clients. However, when strategizing for your short- and long-term business goals, consider the many economic benefits of having access to men as clients and/or as referral sources will bring to you and your company.