When you’re burning the candle at both ends, trying to survive and grow in a cut-throat market, how to network gets pushed down the priority list. After all, engaging with people is time-consuming, demanding, and just plain difficult – and doesn’t always produce positive results.
But networking is a fundamental business function for a reason. It’s a tried-and-tested, low-cost way to promote yourself and generate brand awareness. Indeed, with the right strategy, it could be the most powerful tool in your quest for growth.
Profitability Hub covers everything you need to know about how to network in this mini-guide, including creative, proven ways to build and maintain beneficial business relationships:
Networking has significant advantages.
The biggest, most straightforward advantage of networking is it allows you to drum up business without breaking the bank. You can find valuable opportunities for new partnerships, generate referrals, and even land clients and positions. It expands your outreach and puts you in front of important individuals and businesses.Networking is more than a low-cost marketing tool, however, and is important in other ways:
- Receiving helpful advice from fellow businessmen
- Staying current on market trends
- Finding brands to partner up with
- Allows you to give back to your community.
Building a business network won’t happen overnight, not to mention it requires serious skills and people smarts. Start by knowing your worth - don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Try to do it unselfishly, though. Think of it as ‘we’ win, not ‘I’ win. ZenBusiness offers a good guide to follow.
Simple, effective network how to’s for SMBs
1. Join local business groups
Every community has business groups, be they the ever-present Rotary Club, or the chamber of commerce. These organizations are always actively looking for interested, active members. Simply joining up and attending a weekly session will connect you to the local movers and shakers.
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2. Volunteer for the community
Volunteering for the community, whether by sponsoring a cause or event you believe in or sending your employees to help a struggling business, is a feel-good way to network. It gives you free word-of-mouth publicity and puts you in touch with important philanthropic businesses and organizations.
3. Be active locally
Every community has iconic businesses and businesspeople – there are major events, helping in ways big and small, and just being seen and heard.
Move away from your computer screen and attend local parties, celebrations, and other prominent gatherings is a great way to network.
4. Connect with businesses online
While face-to-face networking is most impactful, it’s not always possible. When there are no networking events, you can do it online, says Harvard Business Review.
In such cases, social media, business forums, and niche networks can be your best friends. You can follow other businesses, promote their content, and interact with other businesses on forums and via comments to start connecting.
5. Offer deals and freebies locally
Giving neighbors and fellow businesses the “friends and family” discount is a great way to deepen bonds. At the very least, they’ll be inclined to think kindly of you. In the best-case scenario, they will (be compelled to) recommend you to friends and family.
6. Teach and share your expertise
Your business expertise is valuable. Consider sharing it by hosting a local workshop in your commercial building, or by setting up a public speaking event at the library. This allows you to be seen by other professionals in your niche and mold future generations.
The people who attend will happily recommend you to others, especially if you impress them.
Maintaining your business network
Maintaining business relationships is a lot like keeping in touch with friends and family. You must consider their needs, keep them in mind when suitable opportunities pop up, look out for them, and generally make them a part of your business life.
Universal Class suggests creating a file for each contact, so you don’t forget important details, and also spending time with each frequently – whether that’s by sharing lunch or having a weekly game of golf. Keep in mind that not all connections are worthwhile, and you will be known by the company you keep. It’s important to be focused and selective when networking.
Conclusion – Networking How To
When you’re an SMB owner, it’s easy to get lost in the “weeds” of day-to-day work tasks and lose the big-picture view. A business doesn’t exist in a vacuum but is a part of a living, breathing community, doing business with living, breathing people.
Networking allows you to connect with people and businesses that matter and build mutually beneficial relationships that are integral to the business long-term survival.
Article by Michael Stevenson
Image via Unsplash