Small Business Owners: 5 Ways to Build an Effective Network

When you work for a large business or organization, networking opportunities can be very common. With so many people working together, opportunities to reach out through different events and meetings can frequently come along. For small business owners, however, it can be a different matter. With very few employees, small business owners may find that they spend all day, every day running the business and can find little time to develop a good network. If you own or manage a small business, follow these simple tips to grow an effective network.

Volunteer in your community

Small businesses are vital to the local community. They can build lasting customer relationships where larger, faceless corporations really struggle. Undertaking volunteer work is a great way to grow your network. You will meet potential customers and clients. You will probably meet other small business owners. You may also meet local officials and other important authority figures. By freely giving up your time, you can build meaningful relationships with all of these people and make a difference along the way.

Develop a local partnership

Small businesses can develop a stronger market presence by working together. Where larger businesses would see no value in partnerships, small businesses and stores can benefit greatly. A ‘shop local’ campaign, for example, can help small businesses in one area to attract and retain more customers. These schemes also encourage small business owners to share thinking and new ideas. A local partnership can be very easy to set up and can offer long-term benefits.

Join or set up an online forum

Small businesses can network very effectively through an online forum. These websites can link businesses by size, location, type or any combination of those things. For example, if you run a design business, then a forum dedicated to design issues for small businesses can quickly help you reach out to new contacts. Actively participate in forums where the content is professional and where there are plenty of active users. If you cannot find one that meets your business need, set up a new one. There are plenty of free forum software providers online. You could be up and running in minutes.

Attend trade shows and conferences

Conferences and trade shows need not only attract large businesses and corporations. Indeed, for small businesses, these events are a great opportunity to differentiate what they do and can offer. They are also a great way to link in with managers and leaders at larger organizations. For small business owners, a network of people from businesses of all sizes can significantly increase future opportunities. You should also aim to attend small business conferences and events, where the agenda may relate more closely to what you do.

Join local associations and organizations

There is likely a number of different organizations in your area that could be a useful way to grow your network. A local chamber of commerce may have a large number of members. Find out about any local (or even national) associations, where you can apply for membership and connect with fellow small business owners. Less formal organizations could include cultural or social groups and community groups.  All of these organizations can offer different benefits. Interacting with a diverse mixture of people can introduce new opportunities that you may not even be aware of.

Small business owners often struggle to identify ways to grow their network. They may feel that networking is something that only people working for larger organizations engage in. In fact, networking is a critical marketing activity for small businesses, and it can be a very effective way to drive sustainable growth.

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