Loyal customers are currency in any business, and having talkative friends is the best form of advertising any business could hope for. But where do you turn when you can’t find the answers to some of your tough questions?
The idea of networking is as old as time. Simply put, networking is using personal and business connections to bring business through your doors.
As a business owner, spending time with individuals with whom you share some commonality – geography, business type, successes, failures, love for coffee, etc. – is a great way to learn from others around you, and get answers to some of your tough questions. Unfortunately, not every social event is the best for making business connections.
How can you make your networking efforts more effective? Here are a few easy steps.
- Have a Strategy – not everyone you meet is going to help your business move forward. You control when and where you meet people, whom you meet, and how the relationship develops after initial contact. “Luck” has been described as hard work meeting opportunity; create some luck by working hard to find the right opportunities.
- Follow-up – there’s a difference between swapping business cards and making a significant contact. When you meet someone you would like to know better, be sure to follow-up with them with either an e-mail or phone call within a couple days of the event. A collection of business cards is worthless until you establish value in the contact.
- Never Stop – networking doesn’t only happen at organized events. You can make a significant contact in line to check out at the grocery story or sitting in the waiting room at a doctor’s office just as easily as you can at a formal chamber of commerce gathering. Always have an eye open for someone with whom you could do business.
- Say Thank You – if you enter into a relationship with someone, and that individual refers business to you, the greatest Thank You you can give that person is sending business back to them. Good business relationships are two-way streets. And, in the same idea, if you refer business to someone, don’t be afraid to ask them for a referral.
- Stay in Touch – this requires following-up more than once. When you make a quality contact, make sure to maintain contact with that person.
Be energetic, positive and involved, and follow these five simple guidelines and your business should see growth in the future.
There are a few places you can look for individuals with whom you can network.
- A Chamber of Commerce or, when available, smaller local business associations are a great way to work with business owners and leaders in your area. Events are usually proactively driven by networking, encouraging folks to be social. This is a great way to meet people in the business community.
- The Better Business Bureau has some great resources available for businesses and customers. Search by your zip code to see some of the events, opportunities and resources available in your area.
- LinkedIn has become a social network through which you can easily sort through your connections and make new ones. This is a great online resource for any business owner. Check out the Popular Community Bank page on LinkedIn here.
- Finally, there are some great local groups, like the Executive Breakfast Club in Oak Brook (IL), that offer both networking opportunities and a chance to learn from some successful business leaders. Ask your friends, contacts and even customers where they go to meet interesting individuals.
What are some successful ways you have networked? Join the conversation on our Facebook page and let us know what’s working for you!