Never has there been a more prominent time to support peers in the small business world than now.  We have seen many of our clients struggle since lockdown was first announced and while some are making progress, for many, there is still a long road ahead before getting back to (anywhere near) ‘normal business’.   Despite the uncertainty and disappointment that has tormented 2020 so far, we have also witnessed many wonderful displays of support, kindness, and a real sense of ‘team’ amid our amazing local community and business network.

Upping your business networking efforts will not only reward you with sales opportunities and contacts based on referrals and introductions, it is also a great way of gaining support from local business peers to achieve your business goals.  For those of you thinking of committing a little extra time to professional networking, here are some tips to help you feel fully confident when meeting a room full of people (and potential customers) for the first time and getting the outcome you need…

Have a considered elevator pitch

Preparation is key and having a concise, impressive speech prepared for networking opportunities or for occasions where you may run into a potential client unexpectedly, will benefit you enormously.  If you can sum up your business and what makes it unique in 20-30 seconds you will install confidence with your audience that you know what you’re doing and you won’t ever be caught off guard.  Keeping your elevator pitch brief also respects that their time is precious and may just win you a meeting with them (or referral) further down the line.

Stand out from the crowd

Differentiate yourself from any competition and really strive to be the best in your niche.  When Make Me Local was first launched there were other website design companies and social media agencies in the area, but they didn’t all offer clients the technical knowledge that would give businesses the opportunity to make the most of online marketing.  Identifying and filling this gap in the market has enabled Make Me Local to really help SMEs to benefit from business growth that targeted digital marketing can bring, which is reflected by our stand-out online reputation.  Know what makes you different, and lead with it.

Help others

Business networking is not just about getting leads, it’s about finding like-minded people with whom to collaborate and build trusted relationships with.  If you treat everyone in the room like a prospect you may miss out on forging great relationships and building powerful and trusted cohort of contacts.  Commit to attending networking events regularly and you will be amazed at the long-term benefits you will reap.  Help others, and you will be helped – your network might not become your clients immediately, but someone who trusts you is more likely to buy from your or refer others to you, in the future.

Follow up your commitments and promises

Not keeping your promises or commitments to the people you meet is simply a waste of everyone’s time and if you make a habit of it, you will become known for being untrustworthy.  Follow up everyone who you speak with, not just those interested in buying.  Listen to other business owners and help find solutions to their challenges even if your offering is not the answer.  Following up with contacts and helping others in a sticky situation will build trust between you as well as a great reputation and long-term relationships.

If the uncertainty of late has left you looking to invest a little more time and commitment to a local business networking group we don’t think you will be disappointed.  As committed members of BNI Bromley ourselves,  we can confidently say that establishing great relationships with other like-minded business people can provide a lifeline of support and business generation for a small business at any stage.  70% of Make Me Local’s business comes from BNI and we’ve never had to pick up a phone to make a cold call since we joined.

We understand that the pressures of running your own business can be a lonely business at times, particularly if you are experiencing a rough patch – it is important to regularly spend time with other optimistic and like-minded colleagues.  Despite most networking groups having to use video conferencing solutions for their meetings at this current time, there are still great benefits to be had from sharing your successes and mistakes with others and gaining new business along the way.