If you’re a small business owner, are you doing your part to support other entrepreneurs? If you just focus on competition, you could be missing out on the opportunity to build new business.
Networking with other business owners can offer big benefits:
- Saving money on shared expenses like marketing or advertising
- Expanding your customer base
- Utilizing business expertise
- Having a trusted advisor
Here are easy ways to connect with other small businesses to form mutually beneficial relationships.
Join a Networking Group for Other Entrepreneurs
Whether an attorney recommends a gardener or a realtor recommends a copywriter, small business is driven by referrals and connections. Local groups — which may meet monthly in a restaurant or hotel conference area — tap into the power of collaboration. Use these groups to form relationships and share advice with fellow entrepreneurs. To find groups, explore Meetup.com, contact your local chamber of commerce or join a chapter of BNI.
Participate in Online Forums
Have a question? Need some advice? A chat forum is a quick and easy way to get – and give- answers and support. Here are just a few online spaces where you can connect with likeminded business owners.
- Business 2 Community This online blog developed into an open community where professionals can establish their thought leadership, increase exposure for their business and network with others.
- LinkedIn Inside the LinkedIn site are popular groups you can join specifically for small business owners. For example, the LinkedIn group of Harvard Business Review has over 600,000 members discussing topics on business, management and leadership.
- StartUp Nation Launched in 2002, StartupNation provides information, inspiration and connections entrepreneurs need to start, grow and manage a successful business.
- Alignable Alignable is a free network where small business owners build local relationships and generate referrals.
Explore Cross Promotions
Cross promotions with other small businesses can increase sales and can help you save marketing dollars by splitting costs. Explore your customer demographic and find similar businesses that aren’t your competitors. For example, a bakery might pair with a hair salon, a tree trimming business with a landscaper, a realtor with an interior decorator. Visit the SmartBiz Small Business Blog for lots of ideas about sharing promotions with another small business: Cross-Promotion and Your Small Business: Ideas for Success
If you’re active on social media, connect with other small businesses there. Tagging other companies or sharing content is a good way to elevate your profile online. If you have a robust blog, consider swapping content with another small business blog. Guest blogging helps get your company name out there and build your personal brand.
Hire Other Small Businesses
If you need a plumber, do you call a national chain with fancy trucks and slick advertising? Next time you need a product or service, support another small business. You can also take a look at your current vendors and explore "downsizing" by supporting a small business (virtual or physical) instead. It’s good for the economy and good karma.
Let Others Know
Don’t keep it a secret that you support other entrepreneurs. By encouraging others to support small businesses, you’ll show that you're keeping true to your own words.
For inspiration, check out how one community of small business owners came together to grow: Banding together, small businesses can form a community that endures.
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