Owning and running your own business involves a lot of work and networking. For many, the difficult part is what is done behind the keyboard: SEO, content, photo editing. I have found recently, however, many small business owners are really comfortable creating and maintaining their own website and content (or paying a developer to do it for them)… and what they really need help with is being social outside of social media.
Lucky for you, I love being social and I love growing my professional network, so I have compiled a list of my top 5 “IRL” networking tips! These actions have been invaluable to me in the past, and helped me grow my brand immensely when I owned my own photography business. The following networking tips also helped me when I was an events coordinator for a non-profit company as well.
1. Your chamber of commerce is the place to be. Typically your local chamber will have 2-4 monthly networking opportunities sponsored by them, and they will also provide lists of other events being sponsored by businesses that are members of the chamber. For instance, my chamber has a monthly large breakfast gathering with a guest speaker, a monthly casual breakfast “club” for networking quickly on the way to your job, several network groups that are affiliated with the chamber and meet there on specific days, lunch meetings for networking, and plenty of other gatherings as well. You do usually have to be a member to participate, but most will work out a payment plan if you cannot pay the full membership fee at once. Memberships usually come with some advertising on your behalf included, so why wouldn’t you jump on that?!
2. Volunteer. Yeah, that’s right. I am a member of the Junior League in my city and I have met so many wonderful women! Volunteering leaves me fulfilled in a way many things can't, and it also introduces me to several new people. Click To Tweet When you meet someone new, you always share the basics about yourself: name, occupation, usually age or something else generic but interesting. Finding a common ground is the norm, and when someone new learns what you do, chances are they know someone that could use your services. Don’t try to sell the person, but make a personable, lasting impression and they’ll remember your name when your niche comes up later.
3. Lunch and Learn Classes. This may sound scary but it can be so fun. Reach out to your local corporations and small businesses in the area, and offer to teach a lunch and learn class. The class doesn’t need to cover everything your do in your profession, but maybe just one or two skills the employees will find valuable and go in-depth. You can also do this as a class at your local library. For instance, if your niche is graphic design, you could hold a class at the library for small business owners looking to expand their social media outreach. Teach them how to use something simple like canva.com or another app to create appealing, significant social media posts. They can do this easily and on their own, they’ll see your skillset, and learn about the services you offer. When they’re ready to upgrade their web presence, or their print ads, you’ll be fresh on their minds!
4. Focus on creating meaningful relationships. This is my favorite method of networking, by far. I am a cancer, I crave meaningful interactions and love and acceptance (and appreciation!). Giving love to others also sets me on fire. Click To Tweet So, just do it. There are places that you frequent often and love fiercely, I’m sure. For me, one of those spots is my gym. It is not just any regular gym, it is a very niche gym. Ok, its an aerial yoga and pole studio. Seriously, I love it. I spend every extra minute I can spare, in that space. I love the owner, I love the instructors, I love the vibe, the energy, the supportive classmates I’m slowly calling my friends. I don’t work for this studio, but I promote their classes and location and workshops like I do. I probably share their info just as much as the instructors do (unless they use an unflattering video of me for the ad, then, sorry, nope. HA!). So for me, this is a meaningful relationship I’ve created and the studio owner has expressed sincere gratitude for my referral of her studio to my pretty large following. I know that at a later date, when the subject comes up, she will recommend me as a social media manager or consultant for her fellow entrepreneurs and small business owners.
5. Refer, Refer, Refer. This one is simple. Find local shops you love, local businesses you believe in, and refer the heck out of them. Example: my friend is a realtor. Every day on social media or in person, someone I know mentions needing to buy, sell, or rent a home. I comment her info or hand over her card. She has put me in two homes where we live and I love her deeply for her patience and understanding. When I found my dream house, my husband wasn’t convinced, so she got the keys for me for the 15th time to do another walkthrough.. only she helped me make a video in every single room where my daughters and I explained our family vision to him. In EVERY.SINGLE.ROOM. All four bedrooms, five bathrooms, two living areas, dining room, kitchen, gym, and bar. It was a fun, long experience but hey, we won him over and we are raising our family in our dream home! Worth IT! I love telling that story when I am referring to her. In turn, she refers to me as well. Bonus: celebratory coffee dates when the referrals lead to business!
If you follow these five tips, you will be creating an in-person network in your community that will be priceless for your business. Technically, all relationships lead back to sales in the business world, but that doesn’t mean that your relationships have to be superficial. The key is to have fun and enjoy the networking and meeting new, interesting people! You never know what or who the day will bring. Click To Tweet
Did you enjoyed these tips? Please take the time to share! If you have any questions or other tips to contribute, comment on this post or leave them on my facebook page!