Why Networking Is Crucial for Small Business Success in a Tough Economy

In today’s tough economy, a time when unemployment is up, prices are up and consumer confidence is way down, it is more important than ever before build our communities through strengthening our small businesses. But growing a small business during these times is not an easy endeavor. Understanding all of the options available today can be a challenge in itself.

The days of opening a business and the community rallying around to support the business are gone. Consumers have too many options today so the business owner must implement a strategy to grow, incorporating new media and some age-old methods. Getting customers in your door takes a focused effort and a consistent and ongoing plan.

With so many new and innovative ways to connect in today’s world, many people overlook one of the oldest methods, good ole fashion networking. Although networking has always worked for small business owners, it has changed dramatically and just requires a few methodology changes to implement today.

Time was when networking was just letting your friends know about your business and you waited for them to send you some business.

Today, with everything being so technology based, one might think networking is a thing of the past, but it is not. Networking is different today than it used to be, but definitely not dead. It is more powerful and can be even more important in the process of success than ever before.

Networking begins meeting the right people. In my coaching of small business owners, I strongly suggest they join groups where they can participate in the business community and network with other business owners. Unfortunately, many new business owners do not realize the power of the people they know and the people they will meet at networking events. They make the mistake of thinking networking  is just a social function.

Networking is not about just handing out your card and waiting for that person to call you. It is about developing a mutual respect and an environment of support within the business community. The power of networking is not in who you know, but who the people you know, know.

Every person you meet is not necessarily a prospective client or customer, but everyone you meet either knows someone or will soon know someone who needs your product or service. But here is the challenge, when they run into someone who needs what you have to offer, will they think of you?

Here are a few, very important pointers to keep in mind when networking:

1) Yes, give out your card, but more importantly, get businesss hed card and make sure everything is correct.

2) Ask if you can connect with them on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (especially the first two)

3) If you have the ability to scan their information into your cell phone, do so immediately. If they have a QR code on their card, scan it.

4) Follow up! When you return to the office or home, simply email each person you met at the event and let them know how much you appreciate having met them. Ask more about what they do, or reiterate what you learned when talking with them. Let them know you remember them and were listening to what they said.