A recent TV commercial showed two businessmen sitting next to each other at the airport. One man smiled upon the realization that they were wearing matching ties. He tried to show it off but was ignored by the other man who was too consumed with his mobile device to notice. The ad explains that the second gentleman just missed out on a million dollar deal.
Kind of makes you want to keep your head on a swivel at the airport, right?
Nevertheless, it does remind us that there are opportunities everywhere to network with business professionals, and often times, it can make or break your next quarter. So, where do you find them? The trick, as we discussed in a past blog about the key to making lasting customer relationships, is to create your own networking opportunities.
Not to toot our own horn, but that’s how Cliffedge Marketing grew our business. Referrals and grassroots marketing efforts shaped the early years, as our president, Sherri Cliffe, began to make a name for herself in the industry. She shaped the business by focusing on client relationships, and now with a successful business in hand, she shares the five tips that helped her build a large contact base over the years.
Five Small Business Networking Tips to Start Using Today
- Get social.
Never mind knowing how to smile, wave or shake on command - we’re talking about social media. The people you want to interact with are out there on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., so you should be too. Follow, Like, Retweet, and Share your way into their hearts to discover shared interests and talking points that could come into play in a big way when you meet up in person. Which leads us to: How do you meet them in person?
- Join organizations.
If there is an organization out there that’s aligned with your business interests, you should be a part of it. Being a part of your industry’s community gives you an exclusive look into what’s important (or frustrating) for your target audience. You can’t buy that kind of feedback. Sherri saw this importance long ago and has been involved with many organizations that share her passions over the years including St. Louis Attractions Association (SLAA), St. Louis Area Food Brokers Association (SAFA), Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club, and Children’s Miracle Network. But don’t just settle for a membership…
- Get active.
Start participating in activities where you will have the opportunity to meet other community leaders. Networking is at its best when people with shared interests are together in person to bounce ideas off of each other. In this respect, Sherri has had a lot of success with non-profit work. For instance, her work on the executive board of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals of Greater St. Louis lead to the development of the Chipping in for Children golf tournament. In turn, this program offered Cliffedge Marketing a chance to expand its client network across the country. Similarly, the Power of the Pink program introduced the team to mayors of participating towns along with doctors, breast cancer survivors, etc. These types of events typically open the door for another big opportunity for your business.
- Offer help.
Find a way to help these organizations with your personal or professional services. Non-profits need all the help they can get and, as is the case with most things in life, good deeds rarely go unnoticed. This work can not only be satisfying on a personal level, but it can also set the stage for future professional work from your new contacts. On a professional level, Cliffedge Marketing proudly hosts Chipping in for Children every year for Children’s Miracle Network. The program generates significant charitable funds, which would otherwise be overlooked. On a personal level, Sherri found a lasting contact when she offered her radio/TV background to help produce an in-store commercial for Dierbergs. And once you start to make a name for yourself, the next step is clear.
- Host your own events.
Leverage your contacts to create a great community event that brings together like-minded people for a great cause they can all happily get behind. Throughout the year, Cliffedge Marketing hosts several networking events to unite businesses and people. It gives clients and prospects an opportunity to socialize with people who they may not have had the pleasure to meet otherwise. Some of our favorites include:
- Champions Night at the Ballpark: We offer discounted tickets to our clients for an all-inclusive get-together at Busch Stadium
- Chipping in for Children Happy Hour: The night before the tournament, we treat all the participants to a special happy hour with appetizers and drinks.
- Our Holiday Happy Hour: It doesn’t feel like Christmas until we start planning our annual client happy hour that celebrates all of the relationships we’re blessed with.
Networking is crucial to growing your business – but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun for everyone involved. When you align your work with your passion, it makes it easy to get involved and find people that will help you grow your business.
If you follow Sherri’s advice and create ways to get involved, you’ll see why she has spent her entire career creating lasting client relationships that help keep her business thriving.
Do you have any other great networking tips? Please share them in the comments!