Maybe you are a new business; maybe you are an established small business.
You could be one of many entrepreneurs that are looking for an edge. You may be looking for a way to grow your business, and to penetrate your local market. Many sink thousands of dollars in marketing and advertising in hopes of reaching the right target audience in their market. They may hire a top firm to reach people on social media, or to optimize their presence in search engines. All these efforts are great, and they have their place. But whether you are a brand-new startup, or you are continuing to grow an established business, you have get your name and face out in the marketplace. You must network. So many times, people look for the cure-all to marketing, and try to bypass to the finish line and skip a very critical step: establishing connections face to face with people.
An online, television or even newspaper ad can reach many people at once. These are great tools and, as a local small business owner, should definitely be used as budget allows. However, if you want true organic growth, you have to get out in the marketplace. It takes building relationships and making true connections with a customer base. No matter what widget or service you sell, as a small business owner, or local entrepreneur, people are buying a piece of you as well.
So with that being said, when it comes to networking, you are the product. So I have listed 5 tips to help you get your name and face into marketplace:
This sets up the rest of these points. So many times, I have run into networkers who are eager to meet you, but their main goal is to hurry up through the chit chat of a one-on-one coffee meeting to tell you how awesome their business or product is. They really don’t care about you or about what you have to say. The funny thing about these people are is they don’t get why they are not as successful as they could be. This isn’t networking, it is an unsuspecting sales call. If you genuinely want to meet someone for the purpose of networking, then be genuine.
When I sit down with someone and learn more about their business or product, I realize that our business may not be a fit for them. For instance, we have no design services to offer a franchise owner because they get all their materials from their corporation. I might, however, have a solution that I could help connect them with. I won’t make a sale with this meeting, but I know that if you are able to refer someone to a more appropriate avenue, you build trust. Trust is so valuable in business. This rolls into being a connector.
Be a connector.
A network of other entrepreneurs is so key. So much business is done by being able to refer business to others who in turn refer business to you. But the only way you can truly be effective in building a network is to get out and do it. Some of our biggest design projects have come from people that we didn’t know personally until someone played the role of the connector.
Nobody loves a blah personality. Enthusiasm is so key! Whether you are a shy introvert, or someone who is a quick and to the point no chit chat kind of networker, have some energy. Enthusiasm and energy is not a personality, but an attitude. People can sense this attitude from a mile away.
In addition to being energetic, be approachable. If you are a closed person, people are less likely to approach you. Think about if you are at the park and you meet a stranger with a dog. You happen to be a dog lover. You drop your hand down an allow the dog to sniff you. Are you more or less likely to pet that dog if it is growling and snarling at you or than wagging its tail? The same applies in networking. If you are not approachable, people will be less likely to interact with you.
My challenge to you is to take these 5 points and put them in practice this week. You will soon discover how valuable networking can be for you.
Ethan is a co-founder of NWA Networking, and is passionate about teaching people the correct way to network. He is a native of Northwest Arkansas, and is very active in multiple facets of the community.