Networking For Small Business is More Than Just Showing Up at an Event! A Few Tips Outside the Box

Network every day, all day long…

Many people come into small business thinking networking means attending events in a room full of strangers and madly “working the room” passing out as many business cards as possible. It could be – except that people will view this kind of approach the same way – “mad” – not at all interested in the people you meet only what you can get from them.

There are many other ways a small business person can network – and not all of them obvious -

  1. Volunteer – you meet people and they get to know who you are as a person. Though you may not get direct business from these activities, you will make contacts, get some information or just have fun! There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun! BUT – this is the big but here – do carry your business cards with you at all times even if you are doing physical work which requires you to wear your old jeans – you just never who you will meet when. The other big BUT here is don’t “push” your small business at people – it won’t work well. Sincerity in the volunteer involvement you choose is important – be interested in the cause and willing to give your time, money and energy.
  2. Suppliers – often people don’t think of suppliers as a way to network. Build a relationship with your suppliers. You likely have a contact salesperson. Explain your business to them. These people talk to a lot of other people and, if they understand your business, they might well pass on your information to another client who may need your service or product.
  3. Friends and Family - one of these areas is often overlooked. Make sure you give each family member and everyone of your friends a couple of business cards – one for their reference and one to give out. You can’t know everyone that all the people in your world know or come into contact with generally. Don’t do it just once either – every once in a while, ask if they need another business card to pass out.
  4. Get a small newsletter going - Get a small newsletter going – it’s easy – create a document, sign up with an autoresponder company such as AWeber and build.
  5. Business groups - join some business groups such as the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and others in your area. It’s a great way to get involved with other business people and share some experiences.
  6. Co-workers from previous jobs - most people going into business, have had one or more jobs. There are people there with whom you have an extensive relationship. Contact them. Let them know what you are doing and ask if you can add them to your newsletter list.
  7. Attend conferences, seminars, trade shows, workshops, etc. - bring a lot of business cards and pass them out to people you meet. Again, don’t “push” your business – at the end of a conversation, say something like, “It was nice meeting you. Here’s my contact information – do get in touch”
  8. In elevators, at the gym or at kids’ events waiting in line in the grocery store or movie house, at a sports game - always have business cards, start conversations and give people your business card to “open the door”. You never know who knows who and who needs what – do it in a friendly, non-expectant way –
  9. Every single posting board you meet - put your business card on every posting board you see – grocery stores, do-it-yourself home improvement stores, community centres, etc. –
  10. Speak for free - if you like to do some public speaking, offer some of the clubs and other groups your services. It’s a great way to promote your business.
  11. Give away something - instead of a business card, if you can afford it, it’s better to give something away for free. Pick a good pen from a supplier of promotional materials, and get a pen done with your company name, website address, telephone number and a small blurb about what your business sells – no more than 10 words. You just never know where that pen will end up! Most people love a free pen because, often, instead of using one they’ve purchased themselves, they’ll carry the gifted pen – what a way to advertise!
  12. Get into the habit of starting conversations - most people won’t do it – so you do it – about the weather, the hockey game, politics, housing, economy, whatever – wherever you are, start conversations and be more interested in listening and asking questions than talking –
  13. Write articles online - write some articles on line – many free sites such as Ezine. Give people good information and promote your business at the same time. You could even get your own blog going!
  14. Start your own group - there are probably a lot of small business people in your area who would love to connect with other small business people. Select a few and start a group in your living room – meet once a week and talk about business issues. Of course, be selective. You’ll learn and they’ll learn plus you get a group promoting one another’s business. Therefore, it’s best that you start a group with complimentary businesses – not competitiors – and each builds on the other. For instance, let’s say that you have a small printing business which specializes in car advertising. Get together with someone in an autobody shop, a car dealership, gift boutique, real estate, plumber, electrician, contractor – you get the idea.

Every day all day long – all night long – like shaking someone’s hand, get in the habit of promoting your business – not in a pushy way – but in a friendly, “let’s keep in touch” way and always ask the other person if they have a card or write down their information if they are willing to give it to you. Then immediately add that name to your list of contacts, preferably in your database with your autoresponder – email addresses are a great piece of information!