Local Networking – still a good investment

Networking can spark mutually beneficial partnerships, lead to new opportunities, and attract more customers through word of mouth.  Making a few good local business connections can go a long way helping your business grow.

Small business owners may believe networking isn’t valuable in the age of social media. On the contrary, it’s still vital for people to get to know your face in the community. And fellow business owners are much more likely to refer you once you’ve met in person, even if you’re known for running a successful business online.

Here’s how to start local networking more effectively with business owners in your local area.

Join local business groups

Joining your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, industry associations, seeking an introduction to a local BNI group or heading along to local Meetup group are all great way to increase your visibility.

Becoming an active participant, you’ll quickly get to know many other small business owners, and this can lead to having a group of like-minded colleagues you can discuss ideas and issues with, partner with on projects, and support each other’s journey.

Here are a couple of quick ideas for expanding your list of local business contacts:

  • Run an ad and offer a member incentive in your association’s newsletter
  • Participate in networking events organised by and for members of your business community
  • Host a workshop around your area of expertise or partner with other business people with varied skills that may be beneficial to your business community.

Pay it forward

Pay It Forward

One of the simplest ways to network (without feeling like you’re networking!) is to get involved in projects that benefit your local community.  The more you invest in your networks, the more valuable they become.  It does take time and commitment, but I believe the rewards far outweigh any inconveniences.

Consider these simple opportunities to work with others in your community and all for the benefit of a good cause.  It can also succeed in spreading positive word of mouth referrals for your business.

  • Host a community fundraiser
  • Volunteer at a local hospital, shelter, or school
  • Serve on a non-profit board or offer pro-bono services to a local sporting organisation or event.

Doing good work in your community will help you get to know other small business owners you can refer your customers to, and who may return the favour.  Your customers already trust you and will value your opinion highly when they are searching for other providers in the community.

My top 5 local networking tips

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a  great networker and connector.  Here are a few of my proven ways to make better business connections at your next networking, community or business event:

  1. I often research a new or potential contact on Linkedin. When you meet in person, this research helps to break the ice more easily because you always have a question or two prepared.
  2. Make sure you make some form of social connection or a business card (outdated?) when you meet.
  3. Always follow up after meeting someone new. A quick phone call, text, Snap Chat or instant message will also let this new connection know that you have been thinking more about them since you met.
  4. Use social media to stay abreast of what’s happening in your area, to chat with local businesses, make referrals, and target new customers. Facebook is full of local groups for all sorts of activities, join a few and discover which ones work well for you, then dump the rest!
  5. My mantra – be helpful, networking isn’t about what a new connection can do for you! Be supportive, share ideas and information and the rewards are always better than the work you put in.

Final thoughts

Networking with local business owners can do much more for your business other than help you gain exposure in your community.

Running a small business can be a lonely venture at times – particularly if you work with remote staff or you’re operating as a freelancer or solopreneur.

Local networking with other business people in your area can certainly boost your business, but it can also lead to close friendships, as well as mentorship opportunities, you’d never come across any other way.

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