Are you looking to expand your resources as a small business owner?
Or maybe you’re looking to build a stronger customer base and community? Whatever your business goals, networking is key in taking your business to the next level.
As a new small business owner, networking can be intimidating. However, this is normal — a lot of people are not so confident about networking!
Even if you are confident about networking yet feel stuck in finding the right places and events to do so, our list of networking tips may give you the help you need.
Here are 6 Networking Tips for Small Business Owners:
Look into Conferences.
If you’re unable to hire employees to fill roles where you don’t have the experience, you may consider checking out a conference for that industry. For example, if you’re good at photography, yet you aren’t as skilled as a writer and raising brand awareness, you may opt to check out a local marketing conference.
The great thing about conferences is that you can learn a lot, and you’ll also meet a lot of people. When you are finally ready to hire, you can check your list of networking contacts to see if anyone is looking for a new job.
You also want to look at conferences for your trade, as that will help you meet other small business owners who you can connect with and learn things from. Even though someone may be a competitor, some people travel far to attend conferences, so they may not be your competition at all.
Before you purchase a pass for a conference it’s important to do your research on it. What is listed on the agenda? Notice what keynotes and pieces of training are being offered, and the experience of the people running the show. Conferences are fairly expensive, and not all of them are worth the price. While it’s a good opportunity for networking, make sure it also benefits you in other areas of improving how you run your business.
If there is a costlier event and it’s specific to your trade and offers learning and growth opportunities, you may want to consider it. Don’t just write off a conference because it’s farther away or costs more. It’s better to attend one conference that costs more but has more value, rather than to attend a few conferences that cost more and may not provide something relative to your business.
Participate in the local small business scene.
Supporting other small business owners will also uplift you. It shows good character, and it makes you likable among your community. Plus, it helps you and your town build a stronger small business scene and getting the community to support you.
Being an active participant in supporting local small business owners is a great way to raise brand awareness. By becoming familiar with other small business owners, you’ll create relationships that can turn into word-of-mouth marketing. Say you’re opening a floral shop, and you support a local coffee shop. By showing them support, they will more than likely support you in return.
Join your local chamber of commerce.
A chamber of commerce is a business network comprising the local businesses in your city or town. Although there is a membership fee to participate, it can often be well worth your investment. You’ll be able to participate in exclusive local small business networking events and often can get your business promoted in your community.
Look for natural outlets, such as volunteering, to network.
Networking events can be great, but they’re also competitive, as everyone is there to network. Thinking outside the box and participating in your community can be helpful in making your brand stand out and networking in more creative ways.
People like to be around others who are selfless, so one example of natural networking can be through volunteering. People love to support organizations that give back and show that they aren’t just about the money. Whether that’s helping out at a homeless shelter or doing a fundraiser for a charity, humanitarian efforts can go a long way and be a more natural method for networking.
Host your own networking event.
If you can’t find a good networking event or conference, maybe it’s time to host your own. This may be a little pricier, as you’ll likely need to rent a decent-sized space that will make other business professionals feel good about you and your level of professionalism. So if you choose to do this, make sure you do a lot of research and planning beforehand.
If you have a great office or retail space, invite other small business owners or other professionals whom you’d like to work with. It could be that you’re inviting these people to intentionally network with others, but it could also be something more relaxed and entertaining such as an invite-only party. If you’re selling a product or service, invite others to come to test it out. Although this is a marketing method, you’ll never know who may show up — even if you’re running an open house and inviting the community. Someone who can help you may show up, or it’ll help you build a stronger network of customers.
Use social media to build your presence.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media and online communities. Often, businesses can go unnoticed even by the locals. If you have social platforms for your business, people may find out about you sooner rather than by happenstance. People may not be routinely driving by your business’s location, or they may not think twice about your business until they need it.
For example, if you are a meditation instructor, you may not get a strong initial response from people who have never tried yoga or meditation. But if you have an online presence, one day when someone decides they’d like to try meditation and they Google the nearest studio for it, your business’s Facebook page is likely to show up near the top. Plus, you can cross-promote with other small businesses in your area easily on social media.
You also can use social media to proactively reach out and engage with other businesses and potential customers within groups and communities whose interest(s) closely align with your business.
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