Being well connected is an asset to a small business owner. Whether it results in actual sales, or in other ways like an excellent PR opportunity or an introduction that helps you fill a vacant position, the payoff can be significant.
As we head into 2017, it’s time to review the basics of networking for a small business. Brush up on your skills and boldly go forth and network.
The 3 Basics of Small Business Networking in 2017
1. Always Be Prepared
- Have a great elevator pitch.
If you’ve already got an elevator pitch, sit down with your sales and marketing folks and see if there needs to be an update for 2017.
Don’t have one? Now is the time to create the perfect pitch. Make it short. Make it impactful. Make it natural. No one likes to feel the pitch coming. It should be a logical explanation of your business and something you would say in conversation.
- Keep current business cards with you at all times.
As a small business owner, you never know when you might end up networking! (I’ve given out my info at a funeral and a Christmas party.) Keep in mind that even though this is a digital world (see #2), nothing so far has replaced the old school nature of handing someone a business card. Not yet.
Word of advice: Don’t hand cards out randomly. Even if it’s used only long enough to type your number into a cell phone, make sure it’s someone with whom you want to connect.
2. Be On Social Media
Networking often starts on social media. Reach out to others and connect before attending a trade show or business conference. Social media can be an important place for follow-up on a face-to-face introduction as well.
LinkedIn, in particular, is a great platform to connect with a new acquaintance and is the one to invest in if your time is limited.
It’s also a good idea to use social media as a way to build your credibility. Sharing information that’s helpful to others, particularly about your business, is a way to keep the conversation going with a new business associate.
3. Join Local Groups And Organizations
Local industry groups or professional organizations might not be so obvious, depending on your business. Instead, look for local Rotary Clubs, Chamber groups or online networking groups to find networking opportunities.
But don’t stop there, joining the boards of local non-profits or getting involved in philanthropy is another avenue to explore. Both are a fantastic way to meet other local professionals and network.
Even though you may be a networking pro, it never hurts to review the basics. As a small business owner, now more than ever it pays to be well connected.