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    Maggie Writes Copy

    Networking your small business

    Building a Network Strategy is a Must

    How to set up a simple, yet powerful networking plan to grow your small business

    Small business owners are busy. Between the never-ending to-do lists and the obligations outside of business, many are frustrated and left asking, Where is there time to build a network?

    But networking is so important – to build your company’s influence in the community and increase your business success. Maggie Writes Copy is committed to bringing you actionable marketing tips.

    Build your network and get better results. Let’s start at the beginning – your perspective as a business owner.

    Networking for small businesses is about two main shifts to your mindset as an entrepreneur.

    1. Networking should be part of your marketing plan and thus serves a larger purpose. Oftentimes, business owners feel like they are never doing enough with marketing. This feeling comes from a very real place. Truthfully speaking, we live in a time where you absolutely could always be doing more. We feel this. Take time to network and give yourself credit for the marketing work!
    2. Networking can feel sleazy and transactional or reek of desperation. You’ll find much more success if you define networking as getting out into the world to meet other people to see if you can help them with something.

    Let’s Talk About How Networking Works.

    All networking falls into two categories: paid or free and will either be in person or online. Some will be organized where each attendee has a set time to speak, and others will be a large room with little formalized structure.

    Early on my favorite networking events were structured and online. These were low risk and gave me clear opportunities to practice speaking about my business. Slowly, I felt more and more comfortable to branch out and try in-person events. There are endless options for finding events.

    Get out there and see what you can find…

    • Look for Facebook groups of like-minded entrepreneurs. There will often be virtual networking events promoted in these groups.
    • LinkedIn is another great resource to find events and online groups.
    • Eventbrite and other ticket services can yield a variety of networking opportunities.
    • Ask others where they’re going and which events they like the best.
    • Use resources from your local chamber of commerce.
    • Explore paid networking groups. Here’s an article about 10 well-known networking solutions: “The 10 Best Small Business Groups for Networking”.1

    What Is a Networking Plan for Small Businesses?

    Put simply it is your plan for meeting others to explore how you may help them. You know the best secret for making a perfect plan? Start small and realistic. You can always reassess and add to the plan later once you’ve experienced success.

    Apply this minimalist approach when crafting your networking plan. In fact, if you’re new to networking to promote your small business, plan for just one month. If you’ve been dabbling, make a 3-month plan. Consider these questions to make it feel organic and less forced.

    • When do you have extra time in your days? Start by adding networking into the open spaces. It may be that your days are full- try evening networking events.
    • How do you feel about virtual networking? I liked this format, but I was also very comfortable using platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, etc. Being comfortable is important in networking. Don’t be afraid to start within your comfort zone- or as close as you can.
    • How do you feel about structured versus unstructured? Perhaps an open room where you choose with whom you’ll interact is your preference. Or, perhaps you’d rather there be more structure, guaranteeing you’ll get your turn even if you end up talking to someone you wouldn’t have thought to seek out.
    • Who do you need to meet? It is important to consider your ideal client here, but it is ok to think outside the box. Are there others who serve the same clients?
    • What do you want to accomplish? Early on my goal was to let others know we existed. As you network more and continue to update your networking plan, your goals will shift.

    How Will Networking Benefit My Business?

    I’m so glad you asked! You get to decide. And, your goals as a small business owner will be different from those of individuals looking for their next position or even an employee of a small business.

    You need to be thinking about the long game and setting yourself up for future goals. I wanted to start creating content for small businesses, so one of my goals was to conduct market research at these networking events.

    Another goal was to find people who provided services that I didn’t offer but clients likely needed. I wanted to solve as many problems as I could for my clients, so I was thrilled to meet a talented local photographer to help me with branding shoots.

    You’re driving this ship- how will networking benefit your small business?

    Connection Calls Count!

    One of my favorite networking tips is to set up connection calls. These can be 15-30 minutes, in person or virtual, local or worldwide, with warm leads or completely cold leads- you get to choose.

    Where can you find potential connection calls? Anywhere. But, here are a few scenarios.

      1. You’re at a local in-person networking event. This event is less structured and you’re making your rounds. You’re implementing all the tips I shared here,2 so you’re leaving them wanting more. You click with two people. One is a clear connection that could be a client. The other you’re not sure, but you’re drawn to them.

        Reach out to both and ask to schedule a connection call. Trust your instincts while networking. And remember, you’re viewing this as a long game. If you like a person, invest in the relationship- who knows what may come. If nothing else, you may make a new friend- we all need another great friend cheering us on!  

      2. You’re browsing social media. It could be any platform. You see someone answer a question and you can tell they know about a topic you’ve been researching.

        In the comments or through messaging, ask for a connection call.

      3. Once again, you’re browsing social media. This time it is an ad that catches your attention. You and this business have overlapping audiences. 

        Reach out on their business page or find them on LinkedIn to request a connection call. 

      4. Lastly, previous colleagues, friends, and acquaintances. You can approach it in one of two ways. Ask to meet for a 15-minute virtual call to catch up, or send an email asking if they know anyone who might be interested in your business or helpful to you as you grow.

        Don’t pick people based on who you think they know. Instead, base who you reach out to on how well a person knows you or has been supportive in the past. People are much more likely to make an introduction if they feel like they know YOU and can vouch for your character. 

    What should your request say…

    Start with an honest connection. Then, clearly explain what you want.

    Sample 1:

    I love this answer! I’m always looking for like-minded business owners to schedule connection calls. Would you be interested in a 15-minute call where we learn more about each other, our businesses, and explore how we could help each other?

    Sample 2:

    I’ve noticed your great post about… it was … I enjoy your content and would appreciate getting to know you better. Would you be interested in a 15-minute call where we learn more about each other, our businesses, and explore how we could help each other?

    Sample 3: This is the formula I used with a former colleague who introduced me to a wonderfully kind businesswoman who has become a mentor.

    Brief catch-up + acknowledgment that you’re asking for a favor + clearly ask for an introduction + relevant information about your business + examples of a great introduction + ask one more time with the CTA

    Time to Write Your Networking Plan

    Follow these steps to establish your networking plan. These are steps that can be revised as many times as you need.

    Step 1: Establish your timeline. How long will you follow this plan before reassessing?

    Step 2: Write your goals. At least one goal should be achievable within the established

    timeline. Others can be long-term.

    Step 3: List events to try. Visit each event once and decide if it should become part of

    your plan or not.

    Step 4: Write your plan. Keep it simple. What will you do daily, weekly, monthly? Be sure to build in touch points as part of your plan.

    Step 5: Define winning. Before you implement your plan, ask yourself, how will I know if I’m successful with this plan?

    Step 6: Plan to reflect. Add a reminder to your phone to reflect on this plan and update it for round two.

    Step 7: Do it. Commit to following the plan- even when you have an odd interaction or

    you don’t feel like going- do it anyway for your established timeline.

    My Sample Networking Plan

    Please note this is my third iteration. Don’t forget the most important tip in making the best plan – keep it realistic to you. A smaller-scale plan that you follow will always outperform a larger plan that you abandon.

    Daily – Each day I’ll spend 15-20 minutes on social media platforms looking for connection call opportunities, I’ll comment on 5 LinkedIn posts, and send any needed follow-up touch points.

    Weekly – I have at least 3 connection calls and send 5 emails for the following week.

    Monthly  I attend 5+ in-person events and 5+ virtual events.

    I’ll reflect at the end of February. I’ll know I’ve succeeded if the following is true.

    • I meet my numbers.
    • I’ve added to my list of potential collaborators.
    • I’ve added a new client that I didn’t previously know.

    Download this free Network Planning Guide.3 Print and display to help you stay consistent. At Reify Copywriting, we always say, “The best plan is the plan you can consistently follow.”

    Network planning

    Business Networking Tips and Tricks

    Anyone who has ever wondered how to set up a small business network would love to hear that there are a few tips and tricks to ensure success. One secret weapon is to be consistent. Write your networking plan and stick to it. If you do nothing else, do this – write a plan that you know you can follow for the duration you set.

    Do it. Reflect. Reassess. Write your new plan and keep going.

    Networking is much more than simply handing out business cards. It requires strategy, finesse, and genuine connection. One way to cultivate your finesse is to craft a killer elevator pitch. Use this article4 to revamp yours.

    Write it. Practice and rewrite. Then, deliver your pitch like the networking genius you are!

    In today’s competitive landscape, building meaningful connections is essential for business growth and success. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, networking can open doors to exciting opportunities and valuable partnerships. So, the best trick is to start. You know it is important.

    Get out there. Start. Learn. Adjust.

    Networking Statistics: Motivation From the Facts

    Networking for small business

    Turns out, smaller networking events can be more impactful. This is great news! The larger rooms can be very intimidating, but you do not need to start there – or ever go there if you‘d rather not.

    You can shine through the follow-up. Less than 50% of people successfully keep in touch with their networks. Meet a few people and be the person who creates meaningful connections. Leverage the easy touch points. Check out these tips5 for smooth follow-up post-networking.

    In-person gives you more bang for your buck. Yes, it is more time-consuming, but the benefits are greater. In fact, 80% of B2B customers make the decision based on their experiences with individuals. Get out there and have positive interactions.

    More times than not, networking events will present new opportunities for you! Read more about these statistics here.6 The bottom line- there are more reasons to participate in small business networking than there are excuses to avoid it.

    Make your plan and get started. You will not regret it. 

    Resources:

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