As we have been discussing in these lessons, networking is an important part of any business. You need to network if you want to grow. Just because you run your business strictly online doesn’t mean you have to miss out on local networking events because they can be very beneficial.
Many online business owners avoid local networking because they feel like it won’t work for them or they’re unsure how to get started. When in fact it can help you make more strategic connections in your community. It can also be a very enriching experience because it puts you in touch with people who understand what it’s like to run a business.
The best way to start is to go out into your community and meet people and other business owners, whether they are like yours or not. Contact your local chamber of commerce, often they’ll have a calendar of local events you can check into.
– Go to fundraisers
Remember, this isn’t the place to be selling your business, but you can definitely meet potential connections this way. Even just going out to the golf course or taking a crafting class is a great way to network and meet people with similar interests to you. It doesn’t have to be a business relationship when you network with people. Anyone who is going to spread the word about your business is part of your network.
– Check out your current contacts
You might already have people you can network with locally that will help you grow your business. They might already have a network that could be beneficial to growing your business too.
Here are a few more benefits for you to consider:
When you network locally, you’ll have more opportunities to explain what your business does, and you can specifically tailor your message to the people you’re speaking to. You’ll also enjoy immediate feedback on your ideas.
– It’s more personal
Face-to-face meetings are always going to be more personal and give you a better opportunity to show who you really are. It’s hard to see someone’s personality when you can’t actually see them or hear them. If you want your personality to shine, then you need to network locally.
You can learn so much about a person just by seeing their mannerisms. In person you can read body language, hear tone of voice, see facial expressions and pick up on feelings.
If all your meetings are done online through email or on social media, then you won’t get that direct feedback that you do when you’re face to face. Yes, Skype and video chats are effective but it’s still difficult to read the other person’s body language when you aren’t in the same room. This makes it very easy to misinterpret their intent.
– Stronger relationships
It’s always much harder to build a strong relationship with someone you’ve never met in person. There needs to be a human connection. It just builds a stronger bond. You can think a person is great when you meet them online, but to actually see them in action and be a part of their energy is a whole other story.
– Maintain relationships
Once you have taken the time to add a great contact to your network don’t lose track of them. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 5 to10 strategic relationships that you’re always nurturing. Make sure you interact with them regularly and that you’re bringing value to the relationship. A beneficial connection is one that serves both parties involved, so you’ll want to take time every so often to re-evaluate your network, your needs, and perhaps even the needs of the people you’ve formed a connection with.
If you find that someone isn’t bringing value or just isn’t a good fit for your business, then it might be time to shift your focus more towards contacts that will help your network grow. You don’t want to burn bridges in the process, but always be mindful of your objectives. Remember the goal is to build strategic relationships that will help your business grow.