7 of the Best Approaches to Networking for Small Businesses

Many businesses create opportunities to generate most of their revenue for the entire year through their networking activities. Networking is a critical skill to have for those who are trying to run and operate small businesses. If not sure how to do this you may want to take some courses at your local community college, the Chamber of Commerce for your local small business development center. There are several important steps that you can take when you do networking for your business. Let’s review some of the more important steps.

Pre-Networking Planning

Determine ahead of time the type of individuals or industries that would be the best fit for your business. Also determine which groups or individuals would be a good fit. Planning ahead of time helps you not to waste time and resources. Many small business owners start out networking and spend a lot of time with any and every group they possibly can, until they find out it was an exercise in futility. If you target the groups that you decide to network with then you can expand the possibility that you will be able to do business with these contacts in the future.

Join Networking Groups

Near many kinds of groups that you can join us some of the best may be right in your own backyard. In addition to taking classes with the local Chamber of Commerce they are obviously very good group for you to network with. Because They have so many individuals representing so many diverse industries he gives you an opportunity to tap into some unsolicited markets. Many times in these groups you can also get them pretty outstanding referrals from people who may not be able to use your service but no others with which only uses which you offer. The whole purpose and design of Chamber of Commerce is rain businesses together to do business with each other and to exchange ideas with each other.

Colleges and Universities

Academic institutions have gotten in on the idea of bringing businesses together also. Many of them have business and economic development centers that train small businesses how to grow. Many times they offer periodic conferences, summits or expos specifically targeted at small business owners. They bring in speakers who are leaders in their fields to help entrepreneurs connect to other entrepreneurs who are successful. During the networking sessions they typically give small business owners various opportunities to take on leadership roles at their events, either as volunteers, vendors, speakers, etc.

Civic Agencies

Some local, regional and national civic organizations sponsor events that support economic development among small businesses and community groups. Organizations like Rotary International, the Lions Club and various others, bring leaders together to form alliances for neighborhood support. There are various periodic meetings, planning sessions and implementation of projects that all group members are involved in. This gives the small business owner an opportunity to network with people they work with for the good of the neighborhood at large. Many times once people know that you care for your community they are more willing to network with you and give you business opportunities.

Community Banks

Community banking institutions nationwide have taken advantage of the funding available through the Small Business Administration. As a result they have been prompted to provide loans to those members of the community that are small business owners. As a part of a White House initiative community banks must make individuals aware of their funding opportunities. Many times these community banking institutions, in collaboration with other community-based organizations will provide workshops and seminars at local churches and other organizations in the neighborhood. These sessions are designed to encourage small businesses to apply for loans. Because the events draw a good number of people they create an opportunity for you as a small business owner to do even further networking with both banking officials, community organizations and other entrepreneurs.

Political Leader’s Events

Many times political leaders conduct events for their local constituents to network with various government agencies that are searching for contractors on upcoming projects. They will hold community forums to introduce new Requests For Proposals, discuss contracting agency guidelines, as well as any collaborating partnerships that are required for the project. Typically these events draw standing-room-only crowds because of the magnitude of the dollar amounts that are available to contractors on these types of proposals. This gives the small business owner not only an opportunity to network government agency staff members but also possible partners on upcoming contracts.

Respected Professionals

Networking with people you respect can also be an avenue of good business opportunities and referrals. Also if these individuals sponsor any large events, you should attend whether it’s for a fee or free because there are typically a number of individuals and decision-makers that will also attend. Sometimes you may be able to be selected as a presenter at some of these events or even a volunteer. No matter what your role, these type of events can give you a outstanding exposure and a great platform to meet and exchange ideas with other professionals who may need your services.

Be aware that networking only begins at these events, it never ends there. You must follow up as a small business owner to keep your name in front of other decision-makers so that you can increase your probability of getting a contract with them at some point in the future. It may take multiple contacts over a period of time before you get an opportunity for a referral but remember to stay in touch because networking is a process not a single event.