Networking is an incredibly broad term that seems overwhelming, but when broken down, it’s a terrific resource for small business owners. Meeting people in person and establishing true relationships is a major part of growing a business, but also in creating a support system for entrepreneurs. Building a community that understands your journey as a small business owner is incredibly helpful and valuable. Not only do they provide insight and ideas, but these people can truly empathize with the rollercoaster that is owning a business.

Hubspot pulled together impressive statistics that reflect how important and impactful relationships are for business. Their top three findings show:

  • 95% of people say face-to-face meetings are essential to build long-term business relationships.
  • 85% of people say in-person meetings and conferences let them build more meaningful business relationships.
  • 49% of people say in-person business meetings are preferred since it leads to more complex strategic thinking.

These numbers are staggering and encouraging! As a small business owner, knowing how to network is as important as actually networking. We’ve collected five top tips for becoming a networking ninja. Give these strategies a go and see how your relationships and outreach improve.

Have a knockout elevator pitch

Attention spans are dwindling and people are becoming more like goldfish; they hop from topic to topic at a moment’s notice. According to recent studies, you have eight seconds to engage someone before they tune you out or move on. To accurately portray your business’s value, personality, and potential, solidify your elevator pitch before you speak to anyone. Have your “go-to” sentences that succinctly summarize what you do and how your company helps its customers.

Once you’ve piqued someone’s interest, you can find out more about their interests and cater your conversation to their needs and build a real relationship.

Always have an ample supply of business cards

Business cards are a networker’s best friend. Despite being walking pocket-sized billboards about your company, it’s a professional way to exchange information. It only takes a second to hand someone your card, and gives you the opportunity to follow up after your initial conversation.

Any small business owner should always have a handful of business cards on them. You never know when you’ll run into a new contact, partner or customer!

Be a friendly neighbor

No matter where you work, make yourself a known community fixture. Go visit other local businesses, whether they are physical storefronts or at a community work space such as WeWork or Cove. Come armed with business cards, your elevator pitch, and a genuine interest in getting to know other business owners.

Find out what these other local businesses are all about, and let them speak, while you actively listen. Building relationships, especially at the community level, are integral to long-term growth. Establish yourself as a trusted resources and friendly face. Being approachable, trustworthy, and knowledgeable will all serve you in growing your business and having your local or online community support.

Look for partnerships

Networking isn’t something that only needs to benefit one party. Look for partnership opportunities in your local or online community, where your products and services complement another business’s and sharing distribution lists, creating specific promotions that include both businesses, is a fabulous way to reach a broader audience for no cost.

Through your neighborly outreach or behind-the-scenes research on your own, find one or two businesses that have similar missions and values. Connect with those business owners and see if they’re open to some sort of mutually beneficial partnership. You’d be surprised how receptive people are when a great idea is put in front of them, and little additional work is required of them.

Guest blog

A less traditional, but equally effective way to network and market your business is through guest blogging. Having other reputable sources feature your original content is a great way to spread awareness without spending a penny.

Writing articles that highlight your expertise build trust and authority. There’s no need to plug your business or services within the article, but rather include links to your social media accounts and business website in your author’s bio. If your content is valuable, it will generate the clicks and interests you’re looking for from a new audience.

Guest blogging is another soft way to reach out to complementary businesses are work together. Good content is welcome by any business, and additional reach never hurt anyone. Again, focus on how each party can benefit from networking and partnering in this capacity.

Networking is your ally and with these tips, you’re ready to hit the ground running. Put your best foot forward and remember, relationships start with a conversation. Put yourself and your business out there, and be prepared to be amazed by the connections you’ll make.

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