Word-of-mouth marketing and networking can be the cheapest and most effective way to generate business, thus enabling you to build up your business.
There are formal and informal networking opportunities available to you in not just regional and local, but also national and online communities.
Formal networking involves attending organizations specifically created for the purpose of networking, usually for a fee.
Make sure to join groups whose members are potential clients themselves or who serve your potential clients. For example, if you sell low-calorie fruit juice, consider a sports or health club.
Informal networking can be done everywhere, including sports events, going out to eat, social gatherings or simply being in the right place at the right time.
Network Within Your Community
Community involvement is another powerful 2-way networking technique; in addition to providing business opportunities, it also gives you the opportunities to pay back the community that provides you with 5 ways to build your business:
1. The main value of community involvement is visibility (the local media, the community itself, a particular segment of the community, and your market).
2. Whatever publicity you receive is bound to be positive.
3. Community involvement will put you in touch with the movers and shakers in your market. And this is an ideal route to meeting gatekeepers and mentors that would otherwise not be available to you ( A gatekeeper is an influential person who's in a position to open the door to resources and contacts. A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor or influential supporter who takes a personal interest in your success. Both are usually experts in their field and know everyone who's anyone in that field).
4. You'll gain a reputation for your community activities, thus increasing your business credibility.
5. Community involvement is often free or doesn't cost a lot of money. For example, consider volunteering: It's the most rewarding form of community involvement.
For more networking info, go to www.small-business-networking.meetup.com.
There are a wide array of volunteer opportunities, but in order to maximize the benefits to your business, you'll need to volunteer your efforts at a managerial and fundraising level. Why? Because this level is where you'll have the opportunity to meet associates and network effectively.
Volunteering will also give you the chance to provide giveaways or free samples of your product or service in such a way as to show off your particular expertise and generate new business. It helps tremendously if you're committed to the cause you're volunteering for, not just for business reasons alone. And since you are primarily running a business, allow for no more than 2-4 hours in a block per week.
If your small business is able to afford it, you can make a cash donation to a charity or organization (But it would have to be a rather large one in order to get much recognition from it). Another way is to contribute to a smaller, less well-known organization. Or you can donate something unusual or unique that will attract media attention.
Sponsoring doesn't need to be expensive; it's not necessary to support an entire event. You can always sponsor just 1 runner in a charity race or a booth at the community health fair.
Bear in mind that with networking, you could land a major client first time out, or it could be months (sometimes even a few years) before your efforts pay off. But if you have a good product or service that the people you're networking with need, time is on your side.
Source: “Getting Business to Come to You” by Paul and Sarah Edwards and Laura Clampitt Douglas