Being Visible

Some forms of networking never change

 

Even though the main focus of my own business is print advertising, I always strongly encourage business owners to seek out a media mix. The first thing I tell anyone is that there is no substitute to being visible in your community. Face to face networking has been around for decades, but with the rise of social media, is it still as important as it used to be? Absolutely! In fact, it’s even more vital now than ever before. It’s the component that separates the business owner that considers himself a part of the community from those that simply want to ‘connect’ to as many people as possible.

So, perhaps you’ve vowed to get ‘out there’ more and meet other professionals. Where do you begin? There are more networking options now that at any time in the past. You have chambers and business associations seemingly in every town, as well as leads groups, business affiliations for your profession and referral organizations. The first place I always suggest that someone go to is BNI (BNI4Shore.com). BNI is a structured networking organization where each chapter has a single, exclusive seat by profession. There are over 100 chapters in Maryland alone, so there is surely one near you. The meetings are weekly and there are attendance requirements, however there is no better way to make connections with other local professionals and turn those connections into relationships. BNI will assist in your ability to create a strong ‘elevator speech’ as well as work on your longer presentation skills. This organization is built around relationships and quality referrals. Once in a chapter, you will meet others who can make suggestions on how to grow your business. They may even invite you to other associations in which they are involved.

The Chamber of Commerce is a very big component to any business community. They differ from one to another, with each offering many networking opportunities. Each month, there are events at all times of the day. If evenings are better than mornings, there will be events that are available to you. Many Chambers also have monthly women’s lunches that are very successful. Within many Chambers there are also committees that you can get involved in as a way to give back to the Chamber and your community.

Civic associations such as Rotary and Kiwanis are also wonderful and provide you with the opportunity to network while having the focus of the organization being more charitable than anything else.

Jump in, but start small and then add one additional component at a time. Too many people will join everything available, causing them to lose focus on their business and ultimately burn out. Networking must be scheduled into your calendar and you need to have a balance. Your business still comes first because without a successful operation, networking moves down on the priority list. Remember that networking is about building relationships, not about making sales on the spot. I’ve been fortunate to be a member of many networking communities for the past decade. If you are unsure where to start or which organization best fits your business and lifestyle, please contact me. I’m always happy to share and assist.

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