Saturday, July 26, 2008

Networking For You And Your Small Business

There was a time when a network was ABC, CBS or NBC. That’s long changed. Now we use “network” to describe social gatherings (in person and online) to get to know people who can further our businesses.

Networking is carried out for different reasons whether it is to find a partner, meet like-minded people, find answers to questions, career networking to get a new job or build business contacts.

It is not a new phenomenon but is just a term given to the natural process of getting to know people, which is not new by any means.What has changed though are the opportunities to expand our network of contacts. With the web you can now build relationships with people on the opposite side of the earth and consequently make your business global. It does happen.There are many networking groups now available online and off line and your success is making these work for you is partially in understanding what each has to offer and what benefits each can bring to you.

Locally, we have groups like the Rotary Club, Hot Pink Mamas, the Lipstick Society, the eight different chambers of commerce and the social register, just to name a few.

No two networking groups are the same – some have less than 10 people, some have 100, some have many more. Each group has a different way of doing business. They may have a structured, rigid agenda while others are just an informal gathering. Different groups will have their own aims and culture. Even two groups running to the same agenda will be different depending on who is attending, determining the dynamics within the group.It’s worth mentioning that most of these organizations are NOT non-profits. They are indeed moneymakers for the individuals who run a particular geography or territory.

So do your research; see what the offerings are; determine if the dues are worth it (particularly if you have to pay for each of the monthly events including your food). Are you reaching decision makers? Will this organization help you grow your business? Is the leadership strong? Do they have the credentials to lead and attract the best of the best? It’s been my finding that a few do not have any real value and are run by large egos. So choose wisely. It’s not just the money you spend; it’s also the time you put in, the cost of the collateral you give out at the meetings, etc.

You have lots of choices. You can find the right groups for you and your business.If you want to build your business, you need an integrated approach: Advertising, public relations, an online presence, etc. But you must also network. Because if you meet the right people with the right companies, it’s likely they will refer your business to others. It’s when you build an all referral business that you are truly on your way to being highly successful.

Mary Ann McQueen Butcher
Red Carpet Marketing, LLC

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