Back in the day, you could build your network through actual, physical networking with like-minded industry professionals and potential clients. Then along came the Internet, and now networking has taken on a whole new meaning.
Even if you’re the owner of a local deli or dry cleaning company, your network has the potential of going global. But not every small business needs to spend the money or time it takes to build a global online network.
Here is a checklist for determining if you should build your network online, offline, or have one foot firmly planted in both worlds.
Assess the Client
Where are most of your customers coming from? When considering how to build your network, it’s important to assess the network that is already in place.
Do you meet new clients, customers and partners on LinkedIn, or do you meet them at your local Trader Joe’s? Are your customers tech savvy, or would they rather spend the day ziplining in Costa Rica?
Taking stock of yourself and your target market is the first step to figuring out how you’ve built your network so far and how to grow that network in the most organic way possible.
Visit the Other Side
Let’s say you run an online business, and that most of your clients and customers are generated online. Imagine how powerful it would be to build your network offline by reaching out to your local Chamber of Commerce or another small business networking community?
While the numbers may not be as big, the quality of the relationships you’ll build in person will have the potential to be solid and long-lasting, and to generate referrals more easily.
Similarly, SMBs that regularly deal with customers in person should consider building an online network. Your expertise in running your small business makes you an expert in your field, and there are plenty of people all over the world eager to learn how you do what you do.
For SMBs that run local businesses, building a strong online network can also expand your network of local customers who may not have heard of your company. Invest in a strong SEO company that specializes in local search engine optimization, and watch your numbers skyrocket as you reign at the top of Google’s search page in your market.
In a digital world, actual, in-person networking happens less and less. Build your network by attending events, becoming a member of a shared workspace, or even by becoming a member of an online dating website.
Match.com, for example, features regular events for singles. Even if you’re off the market romantically-speaking, you may be able to find and meet like-minded professionals and potential customers!
What’s been the most effective strategy for building your network?
photo credit: socialmouths.com