Small business owners who obtain a business loan have many options for what they can use this crucial cash for, from new technology to employee bonuses. However, there’s one aspect of running a business that also needs a working capital investment: networking. Some individuals who think of networking as merely attending social engagements to mingle and swap business cards with peers might be wondering why an owner or CEO would need a business loan for networking. While mingling at social events is certainly a single aspect of the networking process, it’s only a one slice of the pie.
There are several different routes you can take to successfully boost networking. Each technique comes with its own benefits. While the majority of these strategies are inexpensive, and some are free, others do require a little extra capital for costs and promotions. However, in most instances, you should be able to notice a return on investment in terms of increased leads or a potentially bump in sales.
Here are four tips for networking as a small business owner:
- Go to events
As stated, attending gatherings of professional associations and industry peers can be a successful way to meet new people and gather potential leads. As an owner or CEO, you must be out on a regular basis preaching about your products and spreading the good news about your services. In many ways, you’re the spokesperson for your company no matter when or where you’re at. Getting out into public gatherings lets you hone your one-minute elevator pitch and gives you a chance to test it on knowledgeable individuals. Remember, at these events, while it’s wise to converse with every possible person you can, don’t over-do it. It’s better to have three quality, in-depth conversations with interested individuals than to have 20 shallow exchanges where nothing is gained other than a business card.
- Host events
While going to events is key, so it hosting your own. Organizing your own networking function allows you to set the theme, agenda and bring in any speakers of your choice. While going this route can potentially cost money to rent a hall, and purchase any audio equipment and snacks, it is also a great way to get your name and business out to more people.In some instances you don’t even need to rent a physical space. Video conferencing and other online meeting spaces let you organize and host events without anyone having to leave their respective offices or homes. This is a great way to really form relationships in your vertical.
- Become a social-media influencer
Despite the constant praise Facebook and Twitter get for being useful networking and marketing tools, a staggering 68 percent of CEOs do not have a presence on social media, CEO.com reported. And of the 32 percent who do have a social media presence, approximately 66 percent of these only use one platform, with almost three-quarters only participating in LinkedIn. LinkedIn is perhaps the best social media network for B2B networking, but it’s only one mountaintop on the social media landscape. Social media lets owners increase not only their networking prowess, but it also helps solidify the company’s brand and build up name recognition.Having a blog you can share on social media is also a key way to network. Writing about the company, the industry, the market or just what’s on your mind is a great way to not only share your thoughts and ideas for others but also personalize yourself and break down any aura of untouchability that some CEOs emit. If you aren’t the best wordsmith, or are already too busy to carve out time to write, consider hiring an outside agency or freelancer to take on the job for you.
- What can you do for others?
Often, owners and CEOs will approach a networking event with the mindset of how it can help them. Who can they meet, how can they pitch a product or what’s the best way to get your name out there? However, as Fortune magazine noted, one of the most overlooked approaches to networking is figuring out what you can do for others. If you can discern what you can do to help out people, these individuals will be more likely to stick around and do something for you too.