One of the biggest threats to successful entrepreneurship is isolation. Many entrepreneurs get so caught up in the day-to-day demands of running their businesses that they lose contact with the customers, clients, prospects, experts, influencers and other people and organizations that can be critical sources of resources and information. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s important to keep your eye on the ball when it comes to the internal operations of your business, but if you allow yourself to totally disappear into the day-to-day running of your enterprise, soon, your prospects, customers and revenues will vanish, too. To avoid this, follow these key networking tips for entrepreneurs.
Read Industry and Trade Publications
Subscribe to and read trade publications, whether digital or print, for business and industry. This includes books, newsletters, magazines, blogs and websites. There are almost no businesses that do not have at least one how-to book on the ins and outs of success in that industry. Make a point of using these resources to identify and reach others in your industry, with the goal of speaking with one colleague, expert, client or key influencer in your industry each week, and having at least one face-to-face appointment (over coffee, a meal or drinks would be nice) each month.
Join Trade Groups
Join and become active in a professional or trade association for your industry. A few minutes with a search engine such as Google should help you to identify the right groups for your business. These groups often have useful websites, offer informational and education seminars, and may provide member benefits such as discounts on purchases for your business or group health insurance. Most importantly, these associations keep you connected with others in your industry, including prospects, strategic partners, customers, industry mentors, potential employees and sources of financing. You should join national groups, as well as be active in their local chapters. If the trade group for your business has no chapter in your area, maybe you should be the one to start one.
Participate in Conferences
Attend conferences for your industry as well as conferences for entrepreneurs in general. You’ll find out about these through the aforementioned trade associations, most of whom have national and regional conferences and events. In addition to industry-specific events, you should also be attending programs devoted to entrepreneurship across all industries.
For example, the annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference is the largest gathering of black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the country each year. This is a must attend for aspiring entrepreneurs who are serious about business, not just playing at it. More than 1,000 business owners, ranging from the CEOs of the Black Enterprise 100s–the nation’s largest black-owned companies–to many of America’s most successful small business owners, are joined by hundreds of representatives from America’s largest corporations, all looking to share the latest trends, challenges and opportunities facing companies like yours.
Keep Social Media On Your Agenda
Scheduling time to personally participate in regular interaction via social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn can help you to connect directly with customers, clients, industry colleagues and other influencers and stakeholders in your industry. Your primary goal is not just to sell, but to learn from others and to share information that can benefit everyone in your network and help build brand credibility for your business. For more on making the most of social media, check out:
The bottom line: Business is about relationships. If you want your company to thrive, you have to stay visible and connected. So get out there, and show them what you’re working with!
Alfred Edmond Jr. is the editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com