Building a small business on your own is a daunting task, but even if you are a solopreneur, you don’t have to face all of your challenges alone. Networking is a vital part of growing your business and customer base, but networking with other entrepreneurs is often overlooked. May 1st through the 7th is National Small Business Week (#DreamSmallBiz), and to celebrate we want to highlight the benefits of small businesses working together to bolster their local communities.
Our team at Brazzlebox created an infographic showing some of the benefits of a small business economy, but we don’t want to stop there. We’re passionate about building communities and small business networking, so we’re sharing some ideas about how you can connect with other small business owners in your area to build your customer base and your community.
When you run a business, it’s hard not to see other local businesses as potential competition, but when you break that mold and start to see the businesses around you as allies instead of enemies, new opportunities crop up. The recent#BuyLocal movement in many cities has been a boon to many local businesses and is a great opportunity for business owners to collaborate, helping promote events and creating buzz around multiple stores.
For example, a small liquor store and an art gallery could partner together for a gallery opening and unusual wine tasting event. The two business owners can share customers, who are drawn in by art and wine, but the benefits don’t have to stop there. When promoting the event, perhaps the owners decide they want to publish a poster or flyer. They can reach out to their networks and find a burgeoning local designer to create an eye-catching poster to get the word out. On the night of the event, they can hire a local videographer to film the fun, eclectic atmosphere and all three business owners can use that to promote their services and events.
Building up your network can help you find new audiences and offer discounts and promotions to potential customers. You’ll also be engaging with a group of like-minded entrepreneurs, so you’ll be sure to make a few good friends along the way.
So how do you start to make those connections? A great place to begin is by walking into other small businesses and introducing yourself. Sure, we network online all of the time, but we’re big fans of face to face interactions. Think of networking as making friends, it’s not about what someone can do for you, it’s about what you can do for them. When you make that mental shift and start thinking about ways to help others, those people you help will be more than happy to return the favor!
Online connections are great too. There’s a reason social media has dominated the online landscape for the past ten years. We as humans innately want to connect with each other, so why shouldn’t businesses do the same? Sure keeping up a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram presence is important, but those outlets focus on customer interaction. We’re focused on helping you connect with business owners so you can share tips, ideas, and customers. Who knows you might even be able to pull off the next big buy local block party.
Speaking of block parties, why not get together with your fellow business owners and set one up? The weather is warming up and people are itching for a reason to get outside, drink, eat and shop! Restaurants can provide the food and refreshments (ask your local coffee shop to bring cold brew!), while other stores can sell their wares on the sidewalk. Find a committed group of people to join you and promote the event and you can attract a huge crowd! Don’t forget to offer discounts to entice customers to buy. A new customer who finds you at the block party may well stop into your store in the coming weeks to see what is new.
Once you start growing your network you’ll notice that something interesting starts to happen. The initial growth you see starts to multiply as more and more people find out about you and your business. The whole thing starts to snowball and as you make more friends through networking, you find that those people care more about you and your business as a whole. Your customer base grows and so does the whole community.
Businesswomen reading documents while sitting outdoors