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Several years ago, a friend and I were having a conversation about how difficult it is to meet new people (in his case, to date). "Yeah," I said, "it’s not like they just knock on your door." "Well," he responded, "one actually did. But she had the wrong apartment."
Like potential daters, small business owners can’t wait for the phone to ring, the e-mail to arrive, or someone to knock on the door. Even if you’ve got all of your print and electronic materials in circulation, you’ve still got to get yourself into circulation as well.
For many business owners, networking is the biggest contributor to their new client roster. But you have to see and be seen at the right spots: places, events, and organizations where participants have the inclination and budget to use the products, services, or ideas your company sells. People tend to join organizations composed of members who do what they do. This is important for learning more about your chosen profession, but not always great for finding new business.
Here are some other ideas:
1. Become active in affiliated organizations whose members could refer work to you (e.g., architects meeting Realtors).
2. Volunteer for a group where you’ll meet those who may have the need and financial means to hire you (museum docents, junior leagues, animal rescue).
3. Join an organization whose members are typically movers and shakers in the business community—like the Chamber of Commerce.
4. Join a group that is expressly for networking—like ProVisors, BNI, Vistage, and the Institute of Management Consultants.
5. Become active—literally. Consider a sports training club (marathon, triathlon, cycling). Members tend to be high achievers, both on and off the course.
6. Host your own group through a service like Meetup.com.
7. Take a chance and attend a seminar, lecture, or event you never would have considered before—and use intermission to mingle.
Have your networking plan incorporate a mix of the above options in addition to those that focus on your specific industry. But be sure to be active in your groups: Attend the meetings and volunteer for positions within the organizations. The more you put in, the more you get out.
Creative Marketing Consultant
Playa del Rey, Calif.
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