The days of networking only at work events or conferences are long gone. It didn’t work all that well for small business owners, to begin with. If your business functions locally, networking at an international conference will only get you so far. Networking on a regional level will get you more impressive results when you’re starting up.
Networking success depends on how well and how often you network with others. While it may be easy to focus your networking efforts on obvious opportunities such as other businesses, banks, and entrepreneurs, you may be missing other ways to make unexpected and potentially profitable connections.
Join Local Organizations
There are many business and philanthropic organizations close to home to join. Consider the Chamber of Commerce, local branches of Rotary International, and business associations. If there’s a merchant’s group, discover ways to mutually benefit from joining forces. Make other businesses your allies.
You probably already belong to a few online forums such as LinkedIn, but are you taking full advantage of what it offers? If you aren’t posting regularly, seeking out new connections, and contributing content, you aren’t availing yourself of the many networking opportunities it provides.
Look for online entrepreneurship groups and organizations connected to your business in some way. Joining an online forum for outdoor enthusiasts is a great networking opportunity if your company sells canoes and kayaks.
Charity events are attended by people who are already predisposed to be helpful. Most of them have money to invest. Circulating at a charity auction or a night at the races brings you into contact with business owners and officers from all kinds of businesses.
If you can donate something to the auction or provide a service for free, you’ll be remembered and appreciated long after the event is over. When your services or products are needed, the people you’ve met will remember you kindly and want to give you their business.
Mention What You Do Often and Everywhere
Networking doesn’t have to be formal or focused. If you’re an entrepreneur, you no doubt always have your business in the back of your mind. It’s okay to bring it up in conversation with others outside of work. While it may be challenging to find a way to mention your business when, for example, your doctor is examining a lump on the side of your foot, look for natural openings in the conversation.
When your doctor asks about your daily activities, be enthusiastic about your business. When checking in and out, chat with the receptionist. Look for cues in the office. Is the décor dated? Mention your office renovation business. Are their computers slow? Suggest the new software you’ve developed.
Networking opportunities are everywhere if you know how to make the connection.