Successful business owners will tell you that networking is important. You need to network if you want to grow your business, and networking in your local area can be especially beneficial, as it gives you local connections in your community. It can also be fun, and it puts you in touch with people who have an understanding of what it is like to do business in the community that you are also doing business in.
If you’re unsure how to get started, here are five ways you can network in your community.
1. Get Out There
This is probably the number one thing. Go out into your community and meet people and the other businesses that are out there, whether similar to yours or not. You can check if your town or city has a chamber of commerce or a local BNI Chapter to help you get together with some of the local businesses.
Go to fundraisers to meet people. Remember, this isn’t the place to be selling your business, but you can meet other people this way. Even just going out to the golf course or taking a crafting class is a great way to network and meet people with similar interests to your own.
It doesn’t have to be a business relationship when you network with people. Anyone who is going to spread the word about your business is part of your network.
2. Get a Second Look
When you meet someone at a special event or a fundraiser, you want to get a second look at them and see if they really are on the same page as you. You shouldn’t set up a cup of coffee meeting with everyone you meet, of course. But for those that you feel you want a deeper connection with, go ahead and make a plan then and there to meet up at the coffee shop in a few days or so, to get to know them better.
3. Help Others in Your Network
Remember to help those out who you are in a networking relationship with. Don’t be greedy and always asking for help with your business. Offer to help out whenever you can so your network doesn’t feel like youíre using them and that you also contribute to them.
4. Use Your Existing Network
Check out your current contacts. You might already have people you can network with locally that will help you grow your business. They might also have a network that could be beneficial to you to help grow your business.
5. Maintain Those Relationships
Don’t lose track of your network. You want to have about 5-10 strategic relationships that you are always checking in on and nurturing. Make sure you interact regularly and that it’s as good for them as it is for you, so in the end they are coming back for more with you.
Remember to always re-evaluate your network and your needs, and perhaps even the needs of the people you have in your network. However, if you find that someone is being too needy, it might be worthwhile for you to cut that person loose. Don’t burn bridges in the process, but do be mindful of what you are in need of in the here and now from people, and what you’re capable of giving to them.
Have fun networking!
PS. If you would like an introduction to BNI, feel free to contact me and I can help you find a local chapter with openings for your business,