“It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know.” I am sure that you have heard this phrase before, and it is absolutely true. Therefore, it isn't that far of a leap to assume that the more people you know, the more doors will open. Today, we will chat about why networking is important to grow a small business and what you can do to get started.
Why is Networking Important?
Small business owners utilize networking for various purposes, from learning from successful individuals to creating long-lasting relationships. Here are some of the primary ways you can utilize networking to grow your small business.
Learn from Successful Individuals
"If you are the smartest person in the room, find a new room." Speaking of quotes, have you heard this one? The world is full of knowledgeable, creative, and successful people. Through networking, you can learn from them. Whether you join their Facebook group, listen in on a ClubHouse meeting, or reach out on LinkedIn, you will find a wealth of information right at your fingertips. You can learn how to better improve your business, what mistakes to avoid, and so much more.
Create Business Leads
As you put yourself out there, you are essentially shining a spotlight on yourself. "Look at me!" While it is not nearly that self-centered sounding, it's true. By networking, you are making potential customers aware of who you are. When you demonstrate your expertise by providing information or joining a conversation, potential customers connect a real-life person to a business. Through proper techniques, you can use that gateway to generate business leads.
The more people that you know, the more chances you have of building connections. Connecting with people is a vital part of business, but you may not yet realize all it can achieve. When you are networking, you not only have the ability to attract new customers, but you also have the potential to make new:
And even friends
Long-lasting connections with people in your field initiate long-lasting results. A link you make today may not come into fruition until years down the road, but the seed was still planted.
Referrals are Life
Additionally, the more people you connect with means a greater spectrum of word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth referrals are worth their weight in gold. Any time someone else talks about you with friends, family, colleagues, or a random person they just met is free advertising!
Awareness of Trends
By being connected to the web of information provided by experts in your field, you will be aware of current trends. You will see what works and what doesn't, what's hot and what's not, and you will get the latest and most relevant news about new tools you can use to better your business.
Repeated Practice in Communication
I'll be honest and say that networking at first is hard. You trip over your words, your garble your way through posts, and you mess up your elevator speech numerous times. But you know what happens then? YOU IMPROVE! Communicating with others is both an art and a science, both of which take practice! By networking, you can iron out the kinks in your communication skills to eventually become an expert speaker.
Now that you understand the importance of networking, it is time to talk about getting started.
How Can I Network?
Often when one thinks of "networking," they assume that it means countless hours behind a computer on LinkedIn. While utilizing social platforms is part of it, networking is really about becoming a part of the community and your field. You want to connect virtually AND face-to-face! You want to make a connection and be memorable, AND you want to remember them in return! This isn't a one-way street or even a two-way street; it is a web, a giant web connecting everyone. Now, let's jump into how you can do that!
Use Online Platforms
You can use numerous online platforms to network with potential customers, experts in your field, and other local businesses. Just to name a few would be LinkedIn, ClubHouse, Facebook, Instagram, and anything else you already use. The key is that you have to put yourself out there; you need to reach out to someone else and connect. This is not just liking someone's Instagram picture but taking the time to send them a message with useful information. Just make sure it isn't salesy or annoying!
Be a Host
There are a plethora of avenues you can pursue when it comes to being a host. You could host:
A free class
A meet and greet
A weekly happy hour
A focus group
An accountability group
and so much more!
When you host these events, encourage guests to connect and share. Give them your information and take theirs. I also highly recommend giving them something related to your business, whether it is an information packet, a gift, or a PDF guide. Not only are you providing something useful that they will keep, but you are also putting yourself (and your logo) out there for more to see.
Conferences are an excellent way to meet with like-minded individuals and learn from experts in your field. Not only can you absorb new information that may be pivotal in taking your business to the next level, but you might also meet a potential business partner, collaborator, mentor, or friend. So, take the time and see what's coming up.
Is there an organization for businesses like yours? If so, you should consider joining. It may be an industry-specific organization, an organization specific to you (e.g. small business, gender, ethnicity, race, etc.), or maybe even one dependent on your location, like a Chamber of Commerce. By joining an organization, you can connect with other influencers in your industry or area. You never know what doors may open.
Talk Up Others
Another easy way to network is simply to talk up others. Do you have a brand, a store, or a business professional that you think rocks? If so, give them a shout-out! Refer friends to them, share (and tag) them on social media, or consider nominating them for awards. You get to support them, and it will also put you on their radar as someone they might want to work with or give a shout out to in return!
Collaborate with Others
Speaking of others, you can collaborate! When you collaborate, you get an intro to their audience, and they get an intro to yours! Whether you exchange articles for blogs, interview each other for podcasts, co-host a group or event, or something else, it will increase your audience pool.
Volunteer in Your Community
Volunteering is an excellent way to network with others. I recommend starting as a volunteer for a community event and just get to know your community a little better. Afterward, you can go on to be a leader in your community by sponsoring events, leading events, adopting a local non-profit, fundraising for local disaster relief, starting a charity, and more. You need to figure out who or what you want to aid and then integrate that into your business process. Honest, unselfish action will open doors without you even trying. Just remember, it isn't about you; it's about charity.
Show Love to Staff
Staff who respect and appreciate their boss and their company are one of the greatest networking assets a company has. When your employees rave about you to anyone who listens, potential customers recognize that as genuine and reliable information.
If you are to the point where you have staff, make sure to show them some love! Your staff is one of the primary components of your business, and a little bit of appreciation goes a long way. Whether you host an employee's kid's little league team, offer internships to your staff's friends or family, or make donations to a charity of their choice, you demonstrate that you care about them and their causes.
Offer Locals Specials
While we always want our companies to grow, your locals are your bread and butter, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar or local business. By offering locals specials like a discounted haircut on a birthday for a salon, 10% off for locals happy hour at a restaurant, or giveaways where locals get an extra free entry, you show your community that you appreciate them. When locals know that, they will go out of their way to give you shout-outs or buy what you have to offer.
A Couple Extra Notes
Before you go off and start your networking frenzies, I have two more points that I want to make (and I promise it's valuable!)
Be Ready for a Surprise Opportunity
Always be ready for a surprise opportunity to network! Here's an example from my content creator, Chelsey. A while back, Chelsey was volunteering at a local charity event with other volunteers she didn't know from her community. When walking to the next event with one of the volunteers, they got talking about their jobs. When Chelsey explained what services she offered her clients, the other volunteer stated that she needed someone like Chelsey too. Chelsey gave her business card, and soon the two began working together.
When you are out and about in the community, intentionally networking or not, always be prepared. I highly recommend that you always have a few business cards in your wallet and an elevator speech in your mind. You never know where your next opportunity could pop up.
Create Connections Afterward
One of the most critical actions you can take after creating a connection is following up. Reach back out to whomever you connected with, whether it is a text, an email, a phone call, or even a thank you card. Let's look at Chelsey's scenario here for a minute.
Chelsey got the phone number of the other volunteer who expressed interest in her services, and it turned out that she had lost Chelsey's business card and couldn't remember Chelsey's business name, so she had no way to reach out even though she wanted to.
Luckily, Chelsey reached out to her with a text saying that it had been a pleasure to volunteer with her and that she looked forward to scheduling a meeting to discuss working together. It ended up leading to a new client, but that would never have happened if Chelsey hadn't followed up.
Confidently Connect with Me
Networking isn't always easy, and it can be hard to get yourself out there initially or know how to move to the next level. If you want help designing a networking plan from someone who rocks at it, book an appointment with me today. Not only can I teach you how to do it, but I can give you access to groups of like-minded individuals on the same path as you.