Guest Author - Deborah Crawford
Fall is a perfect time to revamp your networking plan. Many organizations are planning their end of year meetings and activities now and there’ll be holiday parties and events announced soon. If you’re looking to expand your business, networking should be a key ingredient in your growth plan. Not only can you build relationships that lead to revenue, but you can learn and grow, and expand your own horizons.
How do you find networking activities that will work for your business?
I usually recommend the area Chamber of Commerce as a good place to start, simply because every area typically has one. And, the Chamber can be a great venue, but there are others and you should definitely seek them out. In fact, the Chamber probably has a list of associations that you can start exploring. And, don’t forget to check the phone book or any business directories you may have.
Your industry or profession probably has an association of some sort. You can find many associations by doing an online search. For example, if you own a retail business, you can search for “retail + association”, or specify your business – food, clothing, jewelry, accounting, and so on.
You can even find associations for “women business owners”, “work at home” associations, and the like.
Another thing to consider is your customers. If you know that your main customer group is real estate agents, craft-makers, or dentists, look for their associations. Many industry-specific associations allow vendor members or associate members who are outside the main membership category, but provide services to that group. This is an excellent way to network with prospects and build relationships that turn them into clients.
To research the associations you find out about, look first at their website—it’s usually a good place for finding information on meetings, events, activities, mission statement and their members. You can also call the association’s board members or representatives and tell them you’d like information on their group. Usually, they will happily answer your questions and they may have a membership kit they can send you.
You should research several different associations, and attend some meetings before you decide to apply to be a member. Give any association two or three meetings before you cross them off your list.
Once you do choose a group or two, remember that the key to networking and membership in associations is involvement. Do attend the meetings, meet new people, and find out how you can get involved in the association. Which committees capture your interest? Which one would benefit from your skills? Join those committees! You will get more recognition in the group, and you will build great relationships with fellow committee members, plus you’ll be able to contribute to their project.
Grow your Business Tip: Put on your Action Plan for this week to find out about at least 5 associations in your area, and pick at least one event to attend in the next month. Confirm and put it on your calendar now! Happy Networking!
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