Maintaining existing customers and finding new customers in an ever-changing market seems to get progressively more challenging. Savvy small business owners have found that smart networking has become one of the most effective tools in their marketing arsenal, providing a level of trust that advertising and marketing cannot deliver.
The best business networking groups operate as exchanges of business information, ideas and support. The most important skill for effective business networking is listening; focusing on how you can help the person you are listening to rather than on how he or she can help you is the first step to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship. Make the conversation all about them and not you. People love to talk about themselves. If you allow them the freedom to talk about themselves, you will be remembered as someone who took the time to get to know them. Remember, networking is not about the quantity of business cards you collect. It's about relationships.
Joining networking groups online can also help you discover small business opportunities. Find topics and discussion groups that relate to your business needs. Discuss some of your interests and small business ideas with other entrepreneurs who might offer valuable insight. Look for opportunities to provide or receive products and services from businesses you are networking with. Add like-minded small business owners to your list of contacts.
With the rapid growth of social media and its ever-accelerating adoption by the business world to extend marketing reach, you can easily learn to leverage technology to raise awareness for your brand, target a broader segment of customers, and quickly deliver high impact information about your product or service.
The challenge for the business owner is always to find a way to balance cultivation of this all-important network with the daily demands of running the business. The secret lies in doing a little up-front homework to identify the networks which will benefit your business the most.
One of the best online resources with a broad range of networking meetings is Meetup.com, with over 22 million members. Other great online sources include LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Taking the time to build a deep, strong network can provide a business owner with a steady referral stream, repeat customers, and opportunities to expand into new markets without spending hard-earned dollars on traditional marketing.
Reap the rewards so many small business owners have experienced through smart networking – it’s today’s key to success for small business!
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