As a small business owner, you might not think that networking is helpful because you are running your business on your own. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Networking gives you the opportunity to share knowledge and learn from other entrepreneurs, create connections in your industry and beyond, and learn useful information about industry trends and best practices.
To help you navigate networking for your small business, we’ve outlined the best events, websites, and groups as well as provided you with helpful tips for successful relationship building. In this article we explore:
- How to network with people
- Professional business groups & business networking events
- Business networking sites
How to network with people
Before you dive into networking, you might want to think about best practices so that your efforts are fruitful. Networking can be tiring and time consuming, so efficiency is key. So, how do you network with people efficiently? Here are our best tips so that you can successfully network.
Identify your goals
What are you hoping to gain from this conversation? Are you looking for industry knowledge like marketing ideas for small businesses, a connection to help your business, an entrepreneur friend, or something else? Determining your goal for the conversation will help you when you reach out initially, prepare for your interaction, conduct the conversation, and maintain the relationship afterwards.
Be cognizant of time
A successful networking relationship is reciprocal. However, you should still be aware of the fact that your connection is busy, just like you are, so you should be aware of the time they will spend on the relationship. Let them know you are grateful that they are taking time out of their busy schedule to meet with you and avoid being late or letting the meeting run too long.
Don’t just take
During the conversation, let them know that you want to help them, too. Whether it is providing your own knowledge, acting as a sounding board for ideas, giving them space to vent, or helping make connections in your industry, let the other person know that you are here to give as much as you get.
Make a plan for the conversation
Before going into your first interaction, make a plan so you know what you want to ask, discuss, and learn. Write down some questions, but make sure that you are actively listening and having an actual conversation. As the interaction winds down, think about your “ask” based on your goal. Do you want to have another conversation with this person next week or month? Join their entrepreneurs group? Find another connection in their industry? Whatever you want, feel free to politely ask them to help you get there.
Say thank you
We can’t emphasize this enough. At the end of every conversation, make sure you say thank you. Then, send them a personalized thank you email afterwards. In this email, you can mention some of what you learned and thank them again for taking the time. You should also use this email to follow up on your goal from the conversation.
Professional business groups & business networking events
Now that you know how to network with people, it is time to find out where to network. These business networking events and sites will help you get in touch with the right people to accomplish your goals.
We’ve rounded up small business groups that put on some of the best online business networking events that you can attend to meet fellow entrepreneurs.
These entrepreneur meetups run by Every.Black happen online every Monday at 8am EST and they are open to anyone. They offer an opportunity to share knowledge, learn from experts and one another, discover new technologies, and grow alongside like minded business owners. Sessions are always free.
Rockstar Connect runs in-person events for local entrepreneurs in North Carolina, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and Nevada as well as online events for entrepreneurs around the country. Their sessions are always free and give business owners a chance to meet and connect with one another.
Network After Work
One of the most popular professional networking groups is Network After Work. They hold weekly online and in-person events that range from educational speakers to getting drinks at a bar with fellow entrepreneurs. They are in many major cities, like Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Boston, and more.
New York Small Business & Startups
This professional networking group hosts events online and all around New York City. Their weekly online game nights are a great opportunity for business owners to unwind, connect with other entrepreneurs, and network in a low stakes environment. Networking does not always need to be 1-on-1 or serious, so this is a great opportunity to meet new people, expand your circle, and have fun.
Sawyer Provider Connect
We couldn’t create this list without including ourselves! The Sawyer Provider Connect small business group gives children’s activity and education businesses that use Sawyer the opportunity to network with another, share valuable insights, ask questions to Sawyer experts, and learn new industry trends and information. It is a great part of working with Sawyer and will help you to manage and grow your small business.
Business networking sites
Want to network with people without going to events? Business networking sites are another great way to find people in your industry, or people who can help your business grow, and establish relationships with them 1-on-1. Here are some of our favorite business networking sites that you can use to expand your network.
- LinkedIn - Best used for: meeting other professionals and scheduling 1-on-1 meetings
- Lunchmeet - Best used for: scheduling lunch meetings with other professionals
- Bumble Bizz - Best used for: finding other professionals for networking meetups
- Twitter - Best used for: staying up to date on industry trends and finding potential people for networking or mentorship
- Slack - Best used for: finding groups of similar business professionals
With the above tips, professional groups, and networking sites, you should feel comfortable networking as a small business owner so that you can meet other entrepreneurs and learn valuable information that will help you grow.
If you are looking for more support in your children’s activity or education business, Sawyer is the best solution for class registration and management software. Our team works with business owners to increase enrollment and expand their audience so they can grow and scale. If you are interested in seeing how Sawyer can help your business, schedule a free demo or start a 14-day free trial today.