Where can you go, at almost any time of day or night, to meet other small business owners who want to chat about the challenges and rewards of running their own firms? An online business network or forum, that’s where.
Every day, people from diverse businesses meet online to exchange commercial tips and information, along with social banter. Accountants, plumbers, marketing experts, shop owners and many others gather online to share their frustrations and successes, to learn and to encourage.
Some do it simply because it’s an opportunity to seek advice from more experienced business owners. Some do it just to let off steam. And some are there because they know that by investing time in networking, they’ll win new business.
Growing sales by talking to people
Whether it’s in a formal online business network, or through the more open social media systems such as Twitter, many business owners find that simply talking to others helps them to secure new sales.
We all like to buy from someone we trust. It might be a big brand, but for many business services, a big brand is not appropriate. If you’re looking for an accountant, for example, you won’t be choosing a national firm because they’ll be far too expensive for your small business.
Instead, you’ll ask for a recommendation from someone you know and trust, or go to an accountant you’ve met – either in person or online. It follows that the more people you meet, the more chance you have of some of them coming to you for your products.
Online networking requires a small investment of time
Like all marketing activities, there is a cost to networking. Whether it’s in person or online, networking takes a chunk out of the 24 hours in your day.
The big advantage of online networking is that you don’t have to spend time getting to and from a venue, and you can dip in and out when you choose during the day. It’s possible to have a conversation with someone, through messages or tweets, over a period of hours or even days. You choose to network when it’s convenient for you.
To make the most of online networking, it’s important that people know what you offer. This isn’t presented overtly, like a clumsy salesman, but subtly through your choice of name, profile picture and other profile or signature information.
Many small firms have discovered that they can boost their sales through online networking. It’s a valuable opportunity at a time when new customers can be hard to find.