Building your business can be a challenge, but you can use a small business network to your advantage. Through talking with other business owners, you'll make the connections you need to grow your business.
Your membership fee often acts as an advertising method. Though exact protocols vary from group to group, you'll often get listed in the Member Directory, be able to place brochures in a central location, and let others know about your business through a monthly newsletter. When other members need someone with your skills or product, they may come to you directly.
Additionally, there are often in-person networking events that you can attend. This allows you to meet directly with other business owners, give out your business card, and let everyone know what you do.
You hope that other local business areas will use your business, so it's only fair to return the favor. When you find that you need a service done or a particular product, look to the members of your networking group. You may even find that as a fellow member, you get more personalized service than you would get if you were dealing with a large, national corporation.
A small business networking group often holds seminars or classes on important marketing techniques. Even if they don't offer in-person events, you might find they have online seminars or informative articles. You'll often find that these events are well worth the cost of admission.
For example, you might learn about techniques for cold calling business prospects, product placement in your store, or building an online presence for your business. All of these can greatly improve your bottom line.
In the best networking situations, people aren't there just to attract new clients and promote their business. Sure, those things might happen, but the best networkers are also there to help other business owners. You can use this to your advantage by getting help in building your business.
Other business owners might be able to give you practical advice about dealing with employee behavior or getting more customers. They might also be able to recommend a software program that could help manage your business finances or recommend a cleaning service that's done a good job for several years.
Don't be afraid to voice your business problems to others, especially those who have more experience. Someone who's already been down the path that your own will have excellent advice.
Of course, a big part of your goal in joining a networking group is to earn more business for yourself. The key to doing this is to be the type of person who other businesses want to work with. Set yourself apart from other business owners in the types of services you provide or the quality of products you create. Develop a mini-speech or "elevator pitch" to quickly let the other business owners know what you can do for them.
One of the most effective ways to attract other clients, however, is to offer free help and advice whenever possible. When the person needs to hire someone in your line of work, she'll naturally remember you.