Even small businesses invariably benefit from networking and building relationships. Working hard keeps your customers satisfied but making connections keeps them coming.
I am an introvert and I can also be quite shy, but I’m also a small business owner, and as such it is my responsibility to get out there and champion my business by networking and building relationships.
Now, don’t get me wrong, when I switched from the corporate sector to running my own business, I did find it hard. I’d been in that world for so long, representing a massive international organisation, and I’d almost forgotten how to interact on a personal level, with nothing but myself to stand behind.
The benefits outweigh the barriers
One excuse for not getting on and doing it is that we don’t have the time; that if we left the office, the world would crumble in our absence. Whilst it may feel that way, getting out of the office and networking for a few hours each week will do both your business and your self-esteem no end of good.
Think of all the feedback and learning opportunities you’ll have. It might be a cliché but a small business is not a self-sufficient island; you need outside influence, and, more importantly, you need relationships to grow your business.
So, the big question is: if you have to get out there and network, how should you spend your time and effort?
Use social media platforms wisely
Take a look at the platforms available and use the ones that suit you and your audience best. My main focus is on Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I’ve had numerous leads and referrals from these networks and they’ve led to paying customers.
Mind the amount of time you spend in social media and make it as convenient for yourself as possible. Consolidate your various profile in one place (such as HootSuite). Also, if you have a smartphone, use it and not your laptop or desktop PC; you’ll learn to be more efficient and focus on what’s important.
Benefit from your local community
Depending on where you live, there might be numerous potential contacts and relationships waiting no more than a stone’s throw outside your door. Join a local networking group that hosts breakfast or lunch meetings once a month.
Another great way of networking is to run workshops or other training-related events. If you’re a specialised business, this can lead to just the right kind of connections.
Trade shows are fantastic resources
Go to a couple of trade shows each year — one for educational purposes and one for networking and raising awareness of your business.
Balance is the key, network with suppliers, peers and potential customers. If you keep the habit up it will broaden your perspective and increase your leads putting your business in a healthier place.
Are you networking and building relationships for the future of your business? I’d love to hear your experiences of getting out there.