How to network with local business owners
Making a few good local business connections can go a long way helping your business grow. Networking can spark mutually beneficial partnerships, lead to new opportunities, and attract more customers through word of mouth.
In the age of social media, small business owners may think networking isn’t as valuable as it used to be. On the contrary, it’s just as important for people to get to know your face out and about in the community as it ever was. Fellow business owners are much more likely to refer you once you’ve met in person, even if you’re known for running a successful business online.
Here’s how to start networking more effectively with business owners in your neighbourhood.
Join local business groups
Getting involved with your local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, industry associations, or a local meet up group is a great way to increase your visibility.
As an active member you’ll quickly get to know a host of other small business owners to bounce ideas off of, partner up with on projects, and support each other’s professional growth.
Here are a few ideas for expanding your list of local business contacts:
- Run an ad and offer a member discount in your association’s newsletter
- Participate in networking events organised by and for members of your business community
- Host a workshop that helps members increase profits and/or improve an aspect of their business
Pay it forward
One of the simplest ways to network (without feeling like you’re networking!) is to get involved in projects that benefit your local community.
Consider these opportunities to work with community leaders and business people for a good cause –while spreading positive word of mouth about your business.
- Host a community fundraiser
- Volunteer for a local hospital, shelter, or school
- Serve on a non-profit board or offer pro-bono services
Doing good work in your community will help you get to know other small business owners you can refer your customers to, and who may return the favour.
Pro networking tips
Here are a few proven ways to make better business connections at your next community event:
- Do a bit of background research on the people you’d like to connect with. When you meet in person, you’ll be able to break the ice more easily with a question or two prepared in advance.
- Follow up immediately after meeting someone. Stay connected on your shared social networks. Email a useful article from time to time to build goodwill and stay in touch.
- Use social media to stay abreast of what’s happening in your area, to chat with local businesses make referrals, and target new customers.
- Be helpful. Networking isn’t about what a new connection can do for you. Ask how you can help your fellow business owners. Be supportive. Share ideas and information.
Networking with local business owners can do much more for your business than help you gain exposure in your community.
Running a small business can be a lonely venture at times – especially if you work with remote staff or you’re operating as a freelancer or solopreneur.
Connecting with other businesses in your area can certainly boost your business, but it can also lead to close friendships, as well as mentorship opportunities, you’d never come across any other way.