Many small businesses spend a large part of their budget on marketing to generate new business prospects. For many small businesses, new clients come from referrals which is a different kind of marketing altogether. In addition to print and online marketing strategies, small businesses should keep their networks in mind with regard to finding potential clients. Leveraging a network is one of the most effective, low-cost marketing strategies to add projects to the pipeline. Here are a few ways to leverage your network:
Start With Your Primary Circle
Identify connections within your primary circle – people with whom you would like to communicate regularly. Who shares your business vision? Who is likely to have a healthy network of like-minded people? It's nearly impossible to maintain strong connections with a large number of people, so focus on a group of 20 or less for your primary connections. Once you have identified these people, make sure to connect regularly.
Communicate What You Need
In order to find business opportunities within your network, you need to communicate about your business. Otherwise, nobody will know how to help you. Prepare an elevator speech describing what your business does, and don't hesitate to tell people about your professional life. When you are looking for more business, make sure to ask for referrals and introductions when appropriate.
Reach Out and Keep Connections Alive
Do not hesitate to initiate contact with network connections, even if you haven't been in touch for a long time. This can be done by phone or email, or through social media sites such as LinkedIn. Although it may be initially uncomfortable to reach out, many people are responsive and will be glad to reconnect over lunch or coffee.
Give and Take
One of the best ways to leverage your network and improve your chances of finding business possibilities is by helping others first. By helping others, you are creating an environment in which others will be happy to return the favor, and are avoiding the trap of only interacting with others when you need something.