Networking as a small business owner

In today's professional world, networking is a necessity. With the rise of technology, however, people discount the benefits of getting to know and talk to people in their industry. Through building a network of colleagues, you're not only spreading the word about your business, but you're also gaining valuable insight from people who may have experience in a particular field that you should know more about. However, it can be tough to get out there to start networking if you've never done it before. Here's what each new small business owner should know when beginning to expand his or her network:

Get to know other business owners in your community
Many neighborhoods have a very tight-knit business community. If your store is located in an area with many other independent stores, try holding a mixer for other owners in the area. This way, everyone can get to know one another. Each business owner can benefit from meet his or her neighbors as well, because everyone can band together to to publicize the whole community and cross-promote each other's brands. This could consist of simply hanging fliers for each other's stores in your own, or even working on a collaborative product – like a coffee shop and brewery putting out a partnered drink. Locals will respond positively to this as well.

"People like to work with businesses they're connected with."

You'll learn about new opportunities
When you're keeping in touch with other business owners in the area, you're more likely to know of events before they happen and how you can contribute. If you run a small bakery, for example, you might be able to get a tent at an upcoming street fair. If you run a printing press and another business owner's daughter is getting married, she may be interested in getting her wedding stationery from you. You're far more likely to be suggested for opportunities like this from other colleagues as well if you keep in touch with business owners in your community. People are more likely to work with a business to which they're personally connected. You may even get to know people who can provide you with much-needed services in your personal or professional life!

You can ask questions
Though each industry is different, getting to know the ins and outs of your particular community can be very beneficial for any new business owner. You can learn a lot about your neighborhood's spending habits, like what kind of marketing tactics work best and when foot traffic on the block is heaviest. While you should certainly network with the business owners in your community, you should also branch out a bit to talk to people in other areas who own businesses similar to yours. This way, you can gain valuable insight on both sides of the fence – the local aspect of your business and the consumers of what you produce. 

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