As a small business it often feels like every penny counts, yet the conversely the old adage ‘you’ve got to speculate to accumulate’ also seems worryingly true. So when it comes to generating new business leads, exactly what should your small business be doing? Networking, that’s what.
Small business networking is a great way of increasing your business profile and generating new business leads. And without these, let’s face it, you’re going to struggle! One of the easiest ways to get you and your business networking is to join one of your local networking groups. These often charge a relatively modest monthly fee for a set number of networking events, giving each of the businesses involved a chance to pitch their service, followed by some informal mingling. See below for some of the main benefits to small businesses of networking.
Generate New Business Leads
One of the most obvious advantages of small business networking is the opportunity to generate new business leads. In general you will find that if other people in your network require a service that you offer, they will come to you first, before searching out your competitors. There is a level of innate trust that is built up simply by talking to the person that you are buying something from, and in this world of anonymous online retail and service provision, personal contact can be the tipping point that gets you a sale.
Leading on from generating new business leads, small business networking can result in your influence spreading much further than simply the members of your particular network. Networks are a viral beast and so each member of your network will also have a network of their own, and members of that will also have a further network of their own contacts and so on. So even if you are not selling directly to members of your network, don’t underestimate the value of viral network referrals. ‘Oh I know someone who does that, I’ll get you their number’ is a powerful marketing tool.
Find Business Advice
By the very nature of it being a network of small business owners, a small business network can also be a mine of fantastic business information and advice. If you are having a problem or just don’t know which way to turn, try sharing it with your network. Chances are someone will have already dealt with someone similar and will be able to give you real, personalised business advice – for free!
Paul Stewart is from Ealing Trading, “My company sells loans to the general public, so I don’t network to get new customers. I just find it really useful to meet other companies to discuss my business and any difficulties I may be experiencing that month.”
Be a Good Samaritan
Just as you would turn to your small business network for leads, referrals and advice then delight in the joy of reciprocity. Helping someone in your network through any of the afore-stated means is a great thing to do (and it won’t hurt your reputation either!) Also your growing network of referrals can be a great way of providing even better customer service to your clients. If you can build a relationship with your clients where you can point them in the direction of trustworthy businesses/services, your clients will in turn look even more favourably on you, and may even return the favour!
Develop Your Interpersonal Skills
Another great thing about small business networking is the chance it gives you to really develop your interpersonal skills. For example an informal networking atmosphere is generally not the place to go for the traditional ‘hard sell’ (where is these days?). Remember that people buy people, so when you are networking get to know the people you connect with rather than selling to/through them. If you are dedicated to your business but also a little too focused on the end result, you may find that the result ends up even further away.
There are a number of great small business networks in most areas, so why not find yours and give it a go? A great network can mean a great business.