As a small business owner, you know how much hard work goes into truly making a successful business. I’m not sure who originally said it, but the famous Lori Grenier from Shark Tank says: “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” Absolute truth. There is one aspect of entrepreneurship and marketing (which is included in that 80 hour work week) which is often overlooked: Networking.
You probably started your business through networking. You contacted your friends and family when you started out, letting them know about your business, but friends and family can only take you so far – their contact is not enough to sustain a business; however, asking your friends and family to reach out to their friends and contacts will help you begin to grow your business.
According to Harvard Business Review: “Networking is a necessity. A mountain of research shows that professional networks lead to more job and business opportunities, broader and deeper knowledge, improved capacity to innovate, faster advancement, and greater status and authority. Building and nurturing professional relationships also improves the quality of work and increases job satisfaction.”
Networking can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re an introvert, but it’s an essential part of growing your business. It makes us uncomfortable because we feel like we’re being pushy, demanding, and annoying. The trick is to understand how to network without crossing the line.
Networking involves working with people to help bolster your business, not just getting people to buy from you – that’s advertising. It means asking for help or asking for a way work together.
- Join a group or professional organization dedicated to networking, like the Vine Vendor Network. By joining these professional groups, you are working with like-minded people who have the same goals of networking. There’s no need to feel like you’re being pushy because you’re all there for the same reason.
- Talk to your current customers and ask them for friend referrals. This is an informal way of networking and marketing altogether. The best way to do this is to host an event and ask each customer to bring a friend.
- Chat and share your business card with other vendors who target the same market as you at vendor events. You can grow a mutual partnership and understanding of promoting one another.
- Feature and follow other small businesses that you love in your blog or on your social media. Contact those businesses to let them know you love their products and would like to feature them. Ask them if they would like to sample yours.
- Attend networking events. There are many opportunities for local networking events through your Chamber of Commerce, incubator spaces, and more. A general search of small business networking in your local area should pop up several events. Check Eventbrite, as well!
Networking Example & Success Story: RoseMary Algerio of Thirty-One Gifts was looking for a way to target her business towards real estate agents. She posted this in the Vine Members-Only Group, and Vine members were quick to refer her to real estate agents. She made contact and sure enough, she will be a featured vendor on a real estate web page!
What are some networking successes or struggles that you face? How can the Vine help you?