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7 Networking Tips For Small Businesses

As a small business owner, spare time can be limited but it's important and can be very rewarding to carve out some time for networking. Networking is an excellent way to generate business leads, whether it's a new partner for a future project or a potential client. It's also a good way to keep up with the latest and greatest trends in your industry. You might be thinking, "how can I step up my networking game?" Check out these 7 networking tips that will boost the number of opportunities that come your way...

1. Work on your pitch

You may have heard of the "elevator pitch" before but what is it? An elevator pitch is a short and sweet summary that describes your business and its mission. Before attending networking events or seminars, think about what your business does well and what you can offer your customers. Jot down the most important aspects of your business and come up with your elevator pitch so you can effectively communicate them to your potential clients or vendors.

2. Polish up your business cards

You're definitely going to need a nice business card to go with that perfect elevator pitch... A memorable business card helps you promote yourself to others and stay in their minds after the conversation is over. Your business card should be clear and concise and also reflect your businesses personality. Things to consider:

  • Size and shape

  • Logo

  • Contact information

  • Layout

  • Branding

It is also important that your business card is consistent with your other branding, like on your businesses website. Using the same color schemes, fonts, and overall design helps to maintain the consistency of your brand.

3. Find a local business organization

Joining a business owner's organization is a great way to network with other small business owners in your area. Joining your local chamber of commerce or another organization consisting of small business owners will provide you with access to a calendar of networking events and other opportunities to connect with others. Business aside, it's also just a great way to make new friends and build lasting relationships. 

4. Attend business events and conferences

Whether your business is a retail store or offers professional services, there is most likely an organization that caters to people in your field. Attending these organizations' meetings and conferences is a great way to network with others in your industry. Many of these organizations have both local and national chapters. If you can afford to spend a little extra money to attend the national conference, you will have the opportunity to meet people from all over the country and also get to visit some pretty cool cities.

Business conferences also include sessions that teach you about industry tips and trends, as well as how to deal with industry-specific challenges that your business might face.  They also provide opportunities to network with other attendees.  These are excellent opportunities to network with other people in your industry and brainstorm ways to improve your business.

5. Take advantage of social media

Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow you to interact with your customers, but other networks, most notably LinkedIn, allow you to interact with other business owners. Join different groups and stay active on message boards to turn your social network into a business network.

Posting in a LinkedIn group on a regular basis and interacting with other members can help you become a top contributor, making it easier for other group members to find you. To help build your credibility, make sure your posts are of high quality and useful.

6. Share your knowledge and listen

If you've been in the business for a while, you've probably gained a lot of knowledge that others can benefit from. People typically like doing business with people who know what they're doing so  establishing yourself as an expert in your industry can attract potential clients. 

With that being said, while it's important to share your knowledge, it's equally important to listen to others as well. Being an active listener is an excellent way to make a positive impression on others. When someone is telling you about their business, pay close attention and ask follow-up questions so they know you've been paying attention. Active listening also allows you to learn something new that could be potentially helpful to you business. 

7. Follow up

Another important networking tip that many people overlook is following up after an event.. It's easy to toss those business cards you collected in your bag and forget about it but following up gives you another opportunity to interact with the new people in your network.

When your event is over, contact everyone you met (and received contact information from) within a few days. Create a thoughtful email summarizing the nature of your meeting and thank them for their time. Not only will people will appreciate the time you took out to reach out to them but it also builds a line of communication in case a future business opportunity ever presents itself...

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