We’ve compiled 6 big ways that can help you master networking in a “small town.” In almost any profession, it is vital to create a network of individuals in order to increase your opportunities. These individuals may go on to provide vital market insight, professional support, or may become potential clients. Never forget, many successful businesses are built on referrals.
1. Open your mouth & tell people what you are doing! Don’t be afraid to remind people about your work. Too often we only reach out to potential customers within our direct industry & forget that in “small towns” everybody knows somebody. Remind your neighbor about the store you opened last year or the financial services that you’re an expert in; they’re very likely to pass along a referral to their friends or family.
2. Attend local events professionally. Find out what events are going on in your area and make it a point to show up as an ambassador for your brand. Attend professional networking luncheons, professional development seminars, or Town Hall meetings to meet other professionals. People will start directly associating you with your brand or company, and you’ll be the first person they call. Avoid serious discussions at bars or happy hours; unlike major metro areas, professionals and business owners are using this time to simply unwind from a long day. Also, when alcohol is involved you’re running the risk of encountering individuals inflating claims or agreeing to meetings they are highly likely to forget. Take this time to develop relationships.
3. Give back. You don’t have to donate tons of money to make your mark. Instead, choose to volunteer at local festivals or fundraisers to make your company’s contribution. Employees feel better about their companies & their selves when they are presented with the opportunity to volunteer. You’ll find yourself breaking out of your comfort zone and cultivating communication and leadership skills when you expose yourself to different environments and new challenges.
4. Make yourself available to offer up expertise, even if it’s not a paying customer. Local uBreakiFix franchise owner, Mesha Echolls Prejean tells us that her store sees amazing results when utilizing their Free Diagnostic policy when developing relationships with their customers. By offering a bit of expertise, you are putting yourself in the forefront of the customer’s mind when making a decision. Even if they don’t do business with you in that moment, they will back.
5. Make ethics & reputation a priority. In “small towns,” word travels fast! If you begin by sticking to your ethical practices and protecting your reputation as an honest, fair tradesman/woman it will create a strong foundation for you down the road. People talk, and everyone has had someone advise them against using a certain business because of the owner or manager’s shady dealings or reputation. If your professional reputation is above reproach, others who know how amazing you are will pick up the torch in your defense!
6. When giving your professional opinion, don’t come across as a know-it-all and don’t give away too much. It’s important to be recognized as an expert in your industry, but you should avoid shoving your opinion down someone’s throat. People have the right to spend their money the way they want to--and even if we foresee the mistake they are about to make, we still should respect their right to choose. You also want to avoid giving an individual so many resources that they completely bypass your business or use one of your competitors instead.