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5 Tips for Effective Local Networking

Small business columnist Steve Strauss explains how small business owners can network with other owners for support, in new and old ways.

Patch file photo
Patch file photo
Staples did a small business owner survey last year, and one of the results that stood out was the response to this prompt: "I wish I could get more support from other business owners if I could find the time."

Among Gen-Xers (35-44), 30 percent agreed with this statement. Among Millennials (18-34), 42 percent agreed. So how do you foster and encourage support among your community for small businesses?

Steve Strauss, of USA Today and  TheSelfEmployed.com, shares five great tips with Small Business Patch: 

Facebook, Twitter, mobile marketing, pay-per-click, having an old-fashioned sale, there is no shortage of ways to market your business these days. But, which is best for your business?

Most small businesses still rely on the tried-and-true strategy of networking for two reasons:

1. First, owning a small business can be a lonely gig and entrepreneurs often feel like they need help in one way or another. The good news: Local networking offers that.

2. Second, because business is, to a great degree, still all about relationships and maybe the best way to forge new relationships is through, yes, networking.

TELL US: How do you network in your community? 

So, here are 5 tips on making local networking work for you:

1. Take it offline: There are many ways to meet, mingle, and get the word out about your business in person. Your local chamber of commerce likely hosts regular business mixers. Don’t forget about organizations like Rotary, Toastmasters, Kiwanis and other such clubs where you can meet people with similar interests who might be able to give you some business. 

One group I am fond of is LeTip. “LeTip International is the world’s largest, privately owned, professional business leads organization. Since 1978, LeTip programs have helped over 120,000 members, throughout the United States and Canada, build business success through personal referrals.” (LeTip.com.) Find a LeTip group in your area and see for yourself.

2. Get online. Everyone else is.: Of course, networking virtually is popular these days and it can be very effective. Be sure to check out message boards for local events and chapter organizations, or use Twitter to locate people in your area who might want to engage with you.

Another great option is MeetUp, an online social networking group that fosters offline group meetings around different topics and interests.

3. Have a compelling story: However you network, your job is not to sell someone. It’s to be interesting, engaging, and to have a good story to share. Crack a joke. But Do Not Sell. People will not be interested in your business if they get the sense you are there to sell and not share.

4. You have two ears and one mouth: When you do meet someone interested in your business, be sure to ask questions and listen to what they have to say. Find out how you can help them solve a problem or fill their need. Help, don’t sell. 

Tom Hopkins, the great sales guru, said “If you listen twice as much as you speak, you will attract more people to your cause.”

5. Follow up: Once you exchange information with someone, it’s perfectly fine, expected even, to follow up. But try this: Instead of following up with a sales pitch, write them a thank you note. “Jim, it was great to meet you. If I can ever help you with you need for new widgets, give me a call, and in the meantime, let’s have coffee soon!”

Steve Strauss is the senior small business columnist for USA Today. His latest book is called Planet Entrepreneur, and you can reach him at his website, TheSelfEmployed.

This article is sponsored by Wells Fargo Works. Watch the video series, then enter the contest where you could win a similar experience, including $25,000 for your business. Watch the videos and enter the contest here.

Yes You Can Marketing, LLC May 10, 2014 at 03:32 PM
Local networking is a great way to grow your business. Check out our local networking group at www.BNImoneymakers.com
Locals Networking May 13, 2014 at 10:02 PM
Great Arictle and we agree that is why we created LocalsNetworking.com - A simple and easy way to meet other business owners in your community! Free to use and sign up only takes a minute. LocalsNetworking.com
Locals Networking May 13, 2014 at 10:05 PM
We totally agree - that is why we created LocalsNetworking.com a simple and easy way to network with other business owners in your community. Free to use! LocalsNetworking.com

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