As a business owner, I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely attainable as long as you’re willing to invest the time and put yourself out there.
1. Industry-Related Online Groups
LinkedIn groups are a great example of industry-related groups that you can join and actively participate in online. You can find groups that are so specific that they describe exactly what you do, what you want to learn more about professionally and where you want your business to go. For instance, as the owner of a Michigan digital marketing agency, I’m a member of groups like “The Digital Marketing Association,” “On Startups – The Community For Entrepreneurs,” “Inbound Marketers – For Marketing Professionals,” “PPC Pro People,” “E-Commerce Network,” “Google AdWords Certified Partners,” etc. These allow me to interact with other professionals like me to provide help and to get ideas for my business.
2. Local Organizations
Interacting with people online is great, but it’s even better to get out and meet people in real life. Local organizations that aim to bring professionals together are the best way to connect and get involved in your community. Here in Grand Rapids we have a number of really great organizations like the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Local First, Start Garden and Girls’ Lunch (just to name a few).
3. Networking Events
The best part about a networking event is that you know that everyone attending is there for basically the same reason so it’s not awkward to go up to someone and introduce yourself and talk about your business. Plus, you never know who you might meet at a networking event! Sometimes you can find great people that can really help your business out down the road or act as mentors to you as you build your business. Network After Work brings networking to major cities across the US and usually has a great mix of people and an energetic atmosphere.
Some people use Meetup.com to find friends or a date, but it’s actually a great way to join a business-related group in a more informal setting. By joining business groups on Meetup, you can stay informed of business happenings in your area like informational panels, conferences, seminars, sponsorship opportunities, partnership possibilities and so forth.
5. Your Existing Community
In America there are millions of small business owners, which means that they are all around at any given time. The personal community that you’re a part of already can help you establish business connections. Whether it’s your neighborhood, church, gym, trivia night group, bowling league, pick-up soccer team or anything else that you participate in, there’s an opportunity to connect with another business owner.
6. Talking to Strangers
Whenever you visit a small business, taking the time to interact with an associate and leave a business card for the owner or asking to speak with the owner can help you make a connection. It can be hard to get in the mindset of trying to do this everywhere you go, but it can pay off by rewarding you with a contact.
If those places don’t work for you, connect with me! I’m always looking for more business owners to work with and befriend.
By Kate Pierce. Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!