The holidays are traditionally a time for giving, for family, for reflection. But for entrepreneurs, the holidays can also be an opportune time to build your network.
Whitney Stringer, founder of boutique lifestyle public relations firm Whitney Stringer PR, helps her clients elevate their business development and networking skills. She shares her advice for small business owners who want to make the season more social:
1. Start by sending a card
“Holiday cards are a great way to touch base with your extended network,” Stringer says. “You can do Christmas cards, general holiday day cards, or—my favorite—New Year’s cards! You can do them digitally or send hard copy cards, but chances are the hard copy version will make a deeper impression.”
Stringer reminds entrepreneurs to get their list together early. And to make sure to have some extra cards available for contacts you may have forgotten or in case you meet someone new.
2. Have a holiday party networking plan
Do you have a calendar full of client holiday parties, or even a stack of invites to celebrations from your personal network? The very social nature of the holidays makes them a great time for making new connections.
Remember, it’s the holidays, so don’t be pushy with your business cards, advises Stringer. But do be strategic. “If you know someone you want to meet is going to be there and you have a mutual contact, ask for an introduction ahead of time,” she suggests. Also, “bring along a guest that can speak to your accomplishments.”
3. Take advantage of the downtime
The slower pace of work during the holidays make them an ideal time to schedule catch ups. “While many people may be traveling, that doesn’t apply to everyone. Since many offices are closed or working on modified schedules, use that time to catch up with former colleagues, business neighbors, college mates, etc. that you just didn’t get around to seeing over the year,” Stringer says.
If you can’t get face time, you can still connect digitally. “Social media is a great tool to connect with people, whether it’s someone you just met at a holiday party or a former association you want to get reacquainted with. See if they’ve shared any articles recently on LinkedIn, or check out their YouTube channel.”
If you’re usually too busy to stop and comment on postings, make the time to do so during the holidays while your workload is lighter, Stringer advises, adding, “They’ll remember that when you reach out in the new year!”
4. Build your network by shopping locally
“This one is especially important for small business owners,” Stringer says. “If you want people to support your small business, when it’s time to do your holiday shopping, be sure to shop local as well.”
This not only gives you the chance to support other entrepreneurs, and to add some good karma credits to your business. But by chatting up the team when you pop in your local boutiques, you might just walk away with a new customer or two. It’s another point of contact, Stringer says, that shouldn’t be overlooked: “Chances are you might not have gotten that one-on-one opportunity at the big box store or shopping online.”