Networking Your Small Business

Business networking involves making connections and building resourceful relationships.  Successful networking not only creates opportunities to develop new clients, it also produces a collective of fellow professionals who will refer business to you, speak highly of you to their connections, and gives your own business a source of contacts.  Having a strong list of reputable connections to use and also refer only makes your business and the services you offer stronger.

Creating trusting business relationships takes time and effort.  A key component of networking in business involves frequency of contact and assisting other businesses with their needs.  This may include regularly attending networking events with other business people or a consistent contact through emails, phone calls or meetings.  Be a connector. This is another networking strategy that strengthens your resourcefulness. By making introductions within your networking base you’re helping those who are helping you. Demonstrating your commitment to building a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship is the basis of building a strong networking strategy.

Build friendships. Your friends will speak highly of you and are likely to help you with word-of-mouth marketing.  Referrals from a valued friend and colleague are priceless and the endorsement is a reflection of your ability to build trust, reliability and confidence.  Building friendships in business is rewarding.  Take the time to talk over coffee, lunch, an after hours gathering or charity event such as a golf tournament or fundraiser.  Get to know people outside of the day-to-day responsibilities and enjoy the camaraderie.

Small business owners and professionals with local businesses who make community involvement part of their networking strategy enjoy the benefits or building business relationships and also participating in community-centric initiatives.  Chambers of Commerce, professional networking associations, service clubs and industry-specific groups offer great opportunities to make new connections and can be very rewarding.  Community involvement gives you and your business a platform to serve and demonstrate what it means to do business with you.

Providing your clients with a great product, service or experience is important, to be sure.  You also need to be able to articulate what it is that you do.  Whether you’re networking, meeting a prospective client, or at an event, you must be able to convey what you do, for whom you do it, and why clients should choose to do business with you. Also known as the “Elevator Pitch,” have this description front-of-mind and be able to communicate it in 30 seconds or less.

And, like with any business initiative, set a goal. You’ll get more out of your networking endeavors if you take the time to determine the outcome you’re striving to achieve.  This may include meeting a specific number of new connections, generating referrals, a financial budget or time commitment. Whatever your goal, manage to it and measure your success.

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