As a business owner, the success of your company is your number one priority. You want to make sure that all of the hard work and effort you put into your startup doesn’t go to waste. You took the plunge to follow your passion and start a business and decided to forego a handsome salary and an exceptional 9 – 5 full-time job with excellent career prospects. The allure of working for yourself and being your own boss was too hard to resist. You are now thriving and eager to see your business go from strength to strength.
Now that you are settling into your new role as managing director, owner, head honcho, finance bod and marketing whizz all rolled into one, you are beginning to understand the intricacies of running your own company. As you mature, you are beginning to realize the importance of networking. While you may not be very good at it (yet), you recognize the need to be visible and forge close relationships with colleagues, competitors and other businesses that you may come to rely on or work with. It’s time to begin to learn the art of networking so you can keep your business at the forefront of your industry.
Not Quite A Social Network
The business world is full of networks. While you may start small, your industry network should end up being dominated by leading lights. You may come to know the managing directors of other rival companies, the off-site SEO experts that you outsource your content marketing to and the best accountants in your local area. Your network should have many overlapping layers and should consist of names and numbers that you can call upon for the most random of requirements. If you need ad hoc catering one day as you’re office is to be the venue for a last minute meeting of local small businesses, you should have a bod in your network to get in touch with so the all-important sandwiches are provided.
Establishing a network is a long process, but you may find that it grows exponentially. As you begin to form close working relationships with clients, more will emerge leading to a more vast network. A network should be continually evolving.
Maintaining A Network
Just because you sold a product to a customer doesn’t mean that they are automatically within your network. You need to keep all channels of communication open and ensure that you remain visible to this client. Ensure that they sign up to email updates and send them the odd discount every now and then to show that you haven’t forgotten about them. Give them a call after they have been using your product for a couple of weeks to see how they’re getting on. Ask for their feedback and make them feel valued.
Where To Network
Trade fairs are exceptional arenas from which to network. Your business is displayed in all its glory, and you’ll be putting your best foot forward, suited and booted, to promote your company. Make sure that it’s obvious what your company is all about and the products or services you offer are visible. Talk to people. Encourage people to venture to your stall with the promise of a gimmicky freebee and then just chat. Your warm enthusiasm and laid back attitude will put potential clients and suppliers at ease. Explore there and then if there’s anything tangible that you can work on together. If you print custom made t-shirts and you’ve gotten talking to a hoodie supplier, think about diversifying, taking on some stock and printing some sweatshirts for the winter season.
Mix It Up
It’s not simply clients and suppliers who you should be networking with. If you’re a catering company, you need to ensure that the hygiene of your kitchen is top notch. Link with Environmental Health agencies to ensure that you remain ahead of the game regarding regulations and legislation. Get in touch with local pest control specialists to clue yourself up on the best preventative measures you can take to ensure a clean and vermin free environment in which to prepare your food. Should the worst happen and an infestation occur, you want to be able to rely on a branch of your network and call upon an expert with the latest pest control scheduling software so you can be confident your problem is exterminated swiftly and discretely.
It’s Not All Take, Take, Take
Remember that pest control issue you recently had? It’s not all about having a network to rely on if you can’t give anything back in return. You also need to be a reliable part of someone else’s network should they need your support. If you’ve used a great catering company, a pest control service or an SEO specialist, offer to supply them with a positive testimonial or some discounted products for their friends and family.
Other parts of your network may run charity drives or projects to forge closer links with the community in which they are based. For good PR and to give something back, you should offer to get involved. As a responsible business owner, it pays to get to know the people within your vicinity. If there is a hospice close by that is in desperate need of funding, offer to contribute your services for free as part of a charity auction. Get your face visible and make a name for yourself as a business that looks outwards rather than remains hidden away forever looking insular.
Think about the way you network on social media. Twitter followers and Facebook likes often come from faceless and unknown sources. Often they are meaningless and do nothing but feed your self-esteem. You need to foster the real and tangible relationships that you are able to forge. By maintaining and nurturing the network you have with your customer base, suppliers, outsourcing specialists and other services, you’ll be enhancing your profile and helping your business reach new audiences.