Being a small business owner can mean long hours and taking on many different roles, especially when starting out. For many small business leaders juggling it all, the thought of networking on top of all the others things to do is too much. Networking is, however, a great way to generate leads, stay up-to-date on trends in the industry, and gain helpful hints or creative ideas.
According to a survey sponsored by American Express, 9 out of 10 Americans agreed that it was important to support the small businesses in their community, and 73% consciously tried to do just that. The people around you want you to succeed – they want to book your services. But they can’t do that if they don’t know about you! And that’s where it helps to network in your own community.
Here are several ideas of how to make networking seem like less of a chore and to get the word out about your business.
Commit to Local Networking Groups
Whether it is a monthly breakfast meeting or a bi-monthly coffee-house get together, commit to attending these networking gatherings on a regular basis. It is a great way to start to meet other small business owners in your area as well as people within your industry. If your time is extremely limited, be sure to research which local organizations you want to take part in. Even just participating in an industry-specific organization, small business associations, or your local chamber of commerce can be beneficial for your business.
In addition to meeting other professionals in your area and industry, you may also want to expand your networking by attending conferences that are industry specific. Conferences are a great time to catch up with people in your field who are influencers or innovators as well as solidify friendships with local or regional professionals in your field.
Exhibit at a Trade Show
Once you get more experience networking with local businesses and industry specific businesses, you may want to exhibit your services or products at a trade show. Don’t forget to bring your business cards and a partner to talk up your business with attendees.
Volunteer in Your Community
One of the best ways to make genuine connections with other small businesses and potentially clients in your area is to take part in some form of community outreach. The level at which you decide to volunteer depends on your schedule, but check out local charities or nonprofits that could use your expertise and provide some pro-bono work to not only feel good but to make connections that are meaningful.
If you need further ideas on networking and connecting with your local community, check out the small business association for more helpful hints. Also check out our calendar of events for great workshops and networking opportunities.