As a small business owner you probably already use sales and marketing techniques to find new customers, but did you know that you can use networking to create a new source of incoming work? When done consistently, small business networking can help you locate new customers and kickstart relationships that may eventually lead to new customers. Not to mention some of the other benefits of networking, including finding opportunities for learning, idea generation, and business growth.
To get you inspired to get out there and network, here are some ways you can use networking to find new clients.
Attend Events in Your Local Community
Take some time to explore professional groups in your community; you may have a local Chamber of Commerce, an industry-specific group, or even a more informal local business owners’ group that meets on a regular basis. Getting involved with local events will give you instant access to business owners in your community who can become a great referral source for your business.
Host Your Own Local Events
If you want to take the idea of local events a step further, consider hosting your own workshops, lectures, or classes in your community. Whether your target audience is consumers or other businesses, hosting an event can be a great way to start networking. It also gives you and your business credibility and helps establish you as an expert in your field, which can lead to other business owners seeking you out for networking opportunities in the future.
Ask for Referrals and Recommendations
Once you’ve gotten out there and have met some like-minded colleagues, it’s time to plant the seeds for future referrals and recommendations. Explain what you hope to accomplish, what your long-term goals are for new business, and discuss how referrals fit into your plan. Then, make it very easy for your contacts to refer you by providing all of the information they may need — your product/service list, your contact information, relevant links, business cards, and brochures.
And, perhaps most importantly, be willing to refer the professionals you are networking with the same way. You have to be willing to help others get the word out about their businesses, especially if you are asking them to do the same for you.
Explore a Joint Venture
Joint ventures occur when you team up with a fellow business owner to accomplish a project together. This typically includes the development, marketing, and execution of a project that falls in line with a strategic alliance. The biggest benefit of a joint venture is that you generally double your investment and your reach, and hopefully your profits. You can identify joint venture opportunities through networking, and you can also find additional networking opportunities through a joint venture, so it often comes full circle.
Take Advantage of Online Networking
Although there is a vast difference between face-to-face networking and online networking, the latter can offer a number of benefits. Not only can online networking help you meet colleagues you would have never had the opportunity to meet, but it can also set the foundation for in-person networking. Explore where there might be opportunities to meet up at industry events or collaborate on projects, and go for it.
It takes a time investment and a solid plan, but with so many online networking options, you can expand your network quickly without ever leaving your office. Then, use those online connections you’ve made to develop real-world, lasting collaborative relationships that will make you a better business person.
Networking is a powerful tool for all small business owners, for both professional development and finding new customers. It may take a time investment to set the foundation, but networking is one of the best ways to forge meaningful relationships that will help you grow your business in the future.