You have a product. You have a logo. You have a name. The question is: How do you bring these forth to your local audience in a new, more impactful way? Networking with your fellow surrounding businesses and community members is one of the most powerful initiatives you can take for your company; when you step out of headquarters and into a networking function, industry expo or community event, you give potential clients and business collaborators more than just a product sample or a pamphlet: you give them a face they can remember.
Business-building is an ever-developing endeavor: it takes courage, inventiveness, and stretching out of your comfort zone to make yourself and your product known. Here are three ways to take your networking to the next level, and create a presence for your business in your community:
Participate in industry-focused events
Taking part in events that focus on the showcasing of your industry is a great way to reach out to potential clients. The constant foot traffic of fairs and expos guarantee that your business will get exposure to people who may have a genuine interest in the products or services you provide, so ROI likelihood multiplies in the participation of these events.
One of the greatest advantages of industry events is that not only can you provide potential clients with samples and informational handouts about your business, but you will also be able to have a lasting impact on your potential clients through face-to-face interactions. An enthusiastic exchange with a common ground of interest could transform a generic business introduction into a meaningful business relationship. The downside of these events is that the larger the scale of the event, the more competition you will be up against; prospective customers are bombarded with smiles and leave-behinds ad nauseam, so when you table at these events, you best be ready to bring your A game and find creative ways to stand out from the crowd. Creating a genuine, engaged connection with a potential client could be the defining conversion factor.
Join your local business networking organisations
Established networking groups can be a great resource for a business, regardless of its size. For a yearly fee, organisations such as Business Network International (BNI) offer networking opportunities, educational information for business owners, business tradeshows, and participation in conferences. Membership to a reputable organisation in the community could also enhance your business’ image in the community; the public may perceive it more positively when they learn that it is part of a coalition of businesses, and could be more likely to interface with your company in the future.
Joining your state and territory’s chamber of commerce or national industry association can also give exposure to your business, and help you create meaningful relationships with other professionals and enhance your interpersonal skills. However, sole membership to organisations doesn’t guarantee that you’ll reap the potential benefits of being a member. For example, due to BNI’s member standards, membership is a commitment of time and energy; you must be actively involved in their activities in order to network, gain valuable information, and create new revenue – so if you decided to join, you must make sure you have at least one person who will rightfully represent your business in their activities. It is also important to consider that a business that operates online exclusively might find that the physical nature of BNI may not meet its needs. In this case, an online-based business may need to push its imagination to be able to fully participate in all the activities offered, or perhaps it simply is not the best fit for it.
Become involved with nonprofit work
Participating in nonprofit work is a great way to give back to your community and have a positive impact in the world. As you give of your time, talent and treasure for a greater cause, you give something unique that only you and your business can offer. Find out what nonprofit efforts are taking place in your community, and determine how you can be of service; it could be as simple as offering one of your products or services for a raffle that may be taking place, volunteering at events, or making a donation in your company’s behalf. Always make sure to have cards handy to give out, and display your company logo at fundraising functions – you will build meaningful relationships within your community, give exposure to your business, and build trust with potential future clients and collaborators. When you wholeheartedly participate in community events, you give a testament to your commitment to being an edifying presence in your community.
If you decide to take the leap into active person-to-person networking, you can be certain of that your community will offer you unique ways to do so. And if you are prepared to represent your company with integrity and passion, you are definitely guaranteed some earnest handshakes – where those will lead is an exciting prospect.