At the Australian Small Business Centre, we use to hold a weekly morning meet up session at Lane Cove, where you can meet other small business owners and discuss topics to help start or grow your own business. Networking has always been a great way to generate new professional contacts and potentially new business opportunities. Certainly, too, with the proliferation of online networking sites, networking with like-minded individuals can often be done quite easily, online. But how do you turn those online contacts into new business?
Real People, Real Meetings
It’s simple, really: turn those online contacts into real life contacts. The internet may be great for finding like-minded people to connect with, but it’s no substitute for real, face-to-face interaction. Go along to meet-ups, conferences and seminars your online contacts are also attending and take the time to put a face to the screen-name, avatar or online profile.
From there you’re more likely to generate new business out of those contacts merely because people like to do business with other people they know, like and trust.
Network Beyond Your Profession
If you’re a bookkeeper that doesn’t mean you should only connect with other bookkeepers — you may get a couple of referrals this way, but don’t limit yourself entirely to people in your profession, as was tradition some time ago. Instead, branch out. Connect with anyone you could possibly convert into clients and whose services you, in turn, could use.
You never know when that mechanic, web designer, plumber or lawyer may need a bookkeeper or, indeed, when you may need a mechanic, web designer, plumber, or lawyer, you trust and would enjoy doing business with.
How to Connect Online
There are plenty of ways to connect with like-minded individuals online — professional associations, seminars and conferences, even the Australian Small Business Centre’s facebook page! — but our top three are below:
1. Meetup.com: The easiest way to meet real-life contacts is by meeting in real-life; meetup.com facilitates that. Look up a particular activity or industry in your area or close by and join one! Or, start one yourself! It’s that easy.
2. Eventbrite.com: Not unlike meetup.com; eventbrite.com allows you to search many different events or create, promote and manage your own events. With eventbrite.com you can search or host events of any kind from conferences to fundraisers to festivals or training courses.
3. LinkedIn: We can’t overstate the power of LinkedIn if used correctly. As a digital resume, LinkedIn can allow you to search for people or companies you would like to connect with, as they can with you, do exactly that: connect with them. If you’re not on LinkedIn, build you online profile now and start networking!
Want some tips or coaching to become a master networker and start receiving a flood of new and relevant referrals