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When you own a small business, advertising can be one of the most expensive parts of your overhead. An effective, low-cost method to get your name out there can take some time, but it can be highly effective. Small business networking is when small business owners meet and discuss their particular business needs and wants. They exchange ideas and information, and if the connection they make is solid enough, they will also refer people to their peers’ businesses. This creates a network of professionals who advertise for each other.

The Best Networking Practices

Several tips can get you through the networking process. It can be intimidating to stand in front of a group of people and talk about your business. Practice and experience will make it easier to take this leap if you’re not normally a public speaker. Write and rehearse what is called a 30-second “elevator speech.” This is the answer you give to someone when they ask what you do for a living. Your speech must include what you do, make or provide to what type of market and how. For example, a person who crafts artisan soaps might say, “I create homemade, vegan soaps according to old-fashioned recipes and sell them to people who love all-natural products. You can catch me at the downtown farmer’s market every weekend.”

Networking Checklist

You can do several things to ensure that any small business networking you do is a good way to spend your time. Achieve maximum results by:

  • Knowing your business and why yours is different from others
  • Asking yourself what you want for your business and setting those goals
  • Finding a networking group that fits your particular needs and budget
  • Volunteer with non-profit organizations to stay visible and create more contacts
  • Become a powerful resource for your peers
  • Asking open-ended questions in meetings, which means they cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” which keeps the conversation going
  • Knowing what to say when a peer asks you how they can help you grow your own small business
  • Always following through with every referral you are given
  • Refraining from selling at small business networking meetings

The meetings are set up to bring entrepreneurs together in order to create a strong and vibrant network of professionals. In order to find small business networking events in your area, check the internet or ask any small business owners you happen to meet. No matter what type of business you’re in, keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building relationships and providing help to other entrepreneurs.