Kochie’s Business Builders – Networking in Your Local Community
Written: by Sue Ellson
Title: Networking in Your Local Community
Date: 22 January 2014
Format: Article on the Kochie’s Business Builders Website
Publisher: Kochie’s Business Builders
Editor: Alex Brophy
Online at: http://au.smallbusiness.yahoo.com/resources/a/-/20931283/networking-in-your-local-community/
Published text: See transcript below
Copy of article as it appeared:
Networking In Your Local Community
January 22, 2014, 9:14 am Sue Ellson Yahoo!7
Some of the best business relationships can be found within a stone’s throw of home base…
Gone are the days when networking your business in the local community involved a ‘suburb specific’ listing in the Yellow Pages, an advertisement in the local paper and a prominent outdoor sign at the business address (with a name and phone number only!).
Today there are an increasing number of home based, online and knowledge-based businesses and to ‘compete’ with the big brands, many online marketing experts will want to sell you a range of pay per click advertising, comprehensive SEM or SEO campaigns or compel you to make constant updates via social media.
Whilst we have all learned to think globally and act locally, there are many business owners who chase new clients and customers from all over town when they could be sourcing these people within a 10 kilometre radius – but how?
First and foremost, let’s consider the benefits of networking in your local community. News travels fast. It is more environmentally sustainable and economically empowering. It saves time, energy and money, andou are more likely to gain local referrals, strategic alliances and serendipitous moments.
You will also have more time to spend with your family and friends because you are not travelling all the time, battling traffic or public transport.
In Australia, there are many local networking opportunities. Local councils across Australia will have an ‘Economic Development’ or ‘Local Business’ strategy and are hosts for various events, activities and initiatives. It could be a networking event, an educational workshop or a mentoring program.
Related: The Rise & Rise Of Local Search
As these are usually subsidised financially by ratepayers, they are usually very affordable. If you don’t like the programs run by the council or library where you either live or work, check out a neighbouring council whose programs may be even better.
Online is still a vital tool and there are a plethora of free directories where you can add your business details (keywords and location). The White Pages and Yellow Pages are now offering some free listings with a website address – at a minimum, if you have a landline or a mobile phone, you are entitled to one free listing in at least one category. Also check out generic online directories like www.truelocal.com.au, www.hotfrog.com.au and www.localblue.com.au and take the time to enter your business details.
Many industries have their own professional association, trade sites or directories or well known website portals. For instance, if you are in the hospitality industry, there are many review websites, discount programs or even apps that allow your business to be found by location (don’t spend more than $200 per year on these unless they have been proven to be successful by a business you know personally and can verify yourself). Many are free.
Completing a ‘competitor analysis’ by searching for another local business and their online and offline representation can lead to a lot of clues about what you can do. Ideally, you need to make sure that if someone searches for you or your business name on Google, more than one of the results on page one is to a profile you own or have developed (particularly your own website – again, think keywords and location).
Related: Social Networking – Finding The Right Balance
It may seem counter-intuitive to connect with people online or offline who offer similar services to you – but the irony is that both of your profiles will be improved. Take the time to complete your online profiles properly and diary to check them at least every six months (but preferably every three months). Keep statistics so that you can track how your network is growing and demonstrate to a future buyer of your business that you have plenty of online goodwill (connections, likes, followers etc).
Start walking in your local area. Observe the changes, stop and chat to other business owners and introduce yourself. If you cannot find a local business network you like, set up your own – these can be easily managed for a small fee on websites like www.meetup.com. Make a habit of always adding new connections to your LinkedIn profile or mailing list if they have agreed. Provide referrals to others rather than always expecting others to give them to you.
There is a very old marketing paradigm that says that it is much easier to create more business through your existing clients than by sourcing new ones – so go out of your way to reward their past patronage, thank them regularly and invite them to exclusive opportunities. Send out hand written thank yous and if you have a chance to host a local breakfast, afternoon tea or cocktails, invite your loyal clients first (and pay).
Networking can be done both online and face to face. Keep up both – because no matter what you do, you can be sure that most prospective clients or customers will ‘Google’ you before they make a purchase – so your offline persona needs to be replicated online and to network locally, your location needs to be a keyword you include every time.
If you have any questions about networking in your local community, contact me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Ellson BBus AIMM MAHRI is the Founder and Director of Newcomers Network, a socially responsible business providing information, events and advocacy for newcomers and networkers.
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