The average business owners realize that they need to network, but they don't know how to get started. After learning a couple quick tips, it is easy to jump out there and get noticed!
By Cori Chaffee
Networking is perhaps the single-most important thing you can do for the success of your business. Most people understand that they need to ‘network’, but the idea confuses them. They aren’t sure exactly how to go about it. So, let’s take a look at the concept!
To get started, you will need to narrow down your target customer. You cannot effectively market to everyone and you can’t effectively network with everyone, either. Decide who your target market is, then determine where you best reach them. For instance, if you are a hair stylist with a small salon in your home, your target customer will most likely be women. (Yes, I know, you are fully qualified to cut men and children’s hair, too. But think about it… if you can get the woman of the house to come in to your shop, it is likely that she will bring her children and husband, too! ). So, you would focus on capturing the attention of women. Consider these questions: Where do women go, what do they do, what do they like? The answers will tell you where to market.
Next, after determining your target client, you need to establish your networks. The average person, given a choice, will go with the person that he/she knows and trusts. This means, you’ve got to put yourself in the position where he/she knows and trusts you! Get involved! Join the networks and civic clubs that your target client will be in. If you are a hair stylist with women as your clients, google women’s associations in your area. Contact your Chamber of Commerce. You will want to be a member, of course, but they also might have great ideas on effective networks for you to operate in.
The next step is to really be involved in these groups. It is not enough to simply be a member and be listed in their directories. This is the most common mistake that people make. They feel it is sufficient to simply be listed in directories. Um, no. There is no way that people can get to know you by reading your name on a list! The goal here is to become known and trusted, remember? The ONLY way to do this, is to become personally involved. You have to put yourself in front of people.
Consider everyone that comes into contact with you as a potential client or an acquaintance of a potential client. Why? Because you never know when someone will refer you to someone else who needs your services. Position yourself so that YOU are the person who jumps into their mind when someone else asks them “Do you know anyone who _____?” This is why you should treat everyone as a potential client.
Another thing you can do is to set up networks with people in complimentary businesses. For instance, if you are hair stylist, set up networks with people like florists. Agree to refer people back and forth. Why a florist, you ask? Because florists and hair stylists are both necessary for weddings. You have to always think outside of the box, and consider every angle of your marketing strategy. I realize that many people don’t like to speak in public. Not many people truly enjoy it, but the fact is, it is a necessary part of life, particularly when you own a business. Contact your local associations (the ones that you have already targeted), in addition to libraries and industry associations and get scheduled to speak at their meetings. You need for people to see you, learn about your business and see firsthand what type of person you are.
Write articles, just as I am doing now. Don’t focus on writing specifically about your industry and the services that you provide, but write helpful articles about issues that your potential clients face. Showcase your expertise by offering helpful solutions for these issues. If you are a hairstylist, write articles about how to avoid split-ends and the most becoming hair styles for different face shapes. Submit your articles to online publications, along with not only your name but your company’s website. The goal is to direct traffic to you and your services.
If your industry has trade shows, participate. Also participate in trade shows for complementary fields. For instance, hair stylists would want to participate in bridal expos. Don’t sit in your booth and play with your iPhone (although that is quite entertaining). Instead, speak to as many people as you can. Develop short relationships with people so that they remember who you are when they look at your card in the future.
As you can see, the only way to successfully network is to do it personally, do it often and never stop doing it. You are a business owner until you decide to close your business. Therefore, you will always be a marketer. Think like one! The importance of networking is proven in the business world. Dive in and make yourself known. It is the only way you will truly become successful.
Cori Chaffee is a female entrepreneur who owns a full-service virtual assistant company. The Perfect Admin, LLC offers a full-range of administrative services, from writing articles, editing and proof-reading to more complex marketing plans. Cori holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. To learn more, visit her at http://theperfectadmin.com