There’s a time honored saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” What a great way to summarize networking for every business. Is networking important? You bet. For a small business owner, establishing those relationships and building meaningful connections with other businesses in the area should be a top priority. After all, you’re in this boat together, serving the same community; it benefits you to do what you can to help keep each other afloat.
Networking with other small businesses gives you a direct line to the other business owners and decision makers in your area. These types of personal relationships are what foster goodwill, build contacts, increase sales opportunities, and push important referrals. Forget about competition, networking is about building a circle of support.
Here are 6 quick small business networking tips to help you get started:
- Introduce yourself – it’s as easy as walking in and letting them other businesses know who you are. Have a business card handy to pass out and make sure it has your direct line of contact on it. If the owner or operator isn’t around, leave your card and give them a call or send an email introducing yourself instead, the point is to reach out and make contact.
- Be good at what you do – no explanation needed really, operate your business with the kinds of ethics and values that will draw the appreciation of clients and other businesses alike and you shouldn’t have a problem making friends. Be diplomatic and fair and always err on the side of good will.
- Be active in your community – attend events, maybe even sponsor some if it’s in your budget, be a community ambassador for your business and brand.
- Be a decision maker – have a say in what goes on in your community and what affects your business. Join any local organizations, councils, or groups that you can/are able to.
- Connect online – have a profile on LinkedIn and connect with other businesses in your area on other social media platforms as well. Giving the occasional shoutout or referral online is always appreciated and easy to do.
- Initiate conversations and build potential partnerships – consider partnering with other businesses in your area for a “shop local” promotion and other community events. Enjoy some good PR while establishing working relationships with other small businesses and boosting your sales plus local exposure at the same time, everybody wins!
While the above are just a few working suggestions to help you build your small business network in a positive way, it’s also worth noting sometimes other small businesses aren’t exactly interested in being your friend. Personalities can clash and sometimes those relationships are the opposite of productive; it happens. All you can control is how you run your business. Put a positive focus on those companies who want a working relationship with you and your business.
You can absolutely build a small business network that builds your entire community, as well as your business. What are some of your favorite ways to build a network?
For more insights on marketing strategy that actually works for small business, connect with Jay Bean, Founder of FreshLime and Small Business Marketing Expert on LinkedIn and Twitter. If any of these tips have helped you or if you have anything to add, please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!