Networking, word of mouth and relationships have been the greatest marketing tools for my business. While I had to have the skill, know-how, tools, etc. in order to actually do any networking, my business was built on and continues to be sustained by this growing, active network and my participation in it.
1. Join a networking group or 5. I was a member of my local BNI chapter back in Northampton, MA where my business was born. You could also join your local chamber but most people find that it isn’t as effective for relationship building as BNI. Another smart choice is to find online, local if possible, groups that support each other. I’m part of a group called Hidden-Tech where jobs are posted, questions are asked and answered, information is shared, relationships grow and people collaborate every single day. You can find groups that directly relate any profession. BNI has been the most supportive of my business, however. I find it to be brilliant in several ways:
- a weekly meeting of a committed group of professionals with open networking, educational information, self-promotion requirements and shenanigans at 7am
- one seat is allowed for each profession – one writer, one graphic designer, one CPA
- you have the chance to tell your group all about your business and educate them about what you do every week
- everyone is there to network and help each other
- your chapter is your marketing team – they learn about you and your business and spread the word on a daily basis
- good chapters pass millions of dollars each year
2. You’ve heard me say it before, but I believe that every situation is a networking opportunity. Without being obnoxious (really), I talk to people about what they do and about what I do all the time. It’s seed planting and you never know where it will lead. Sometimes the rewards are instantaneous…and priceless.
3. Web 2.0, social networking, social bookmarking, blogging. Participate online. The internet was created to share information and to communicate. If you are just focusing on your local clientele, you are missing out on an entire world of opportunity. Participate by
- blogging and sharing information
- reading other blogs
- commenting on other blogs
- responding to comments on your blog
- bookmarking blogs, sites and articles on sites such as Digg, Hugg, Technorati, etc.
- actively networking on sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Squidoo, etc.
- being respectful and unspamlike at all times