Small businesses that don’t network will fail. Whether networking with others in your industry or with potential clients, it takes getting out, meeting new people, and handing out business cards. The key to balancing your small business with networking is to keep your eye on and ear to the customer at all times. An aware listener is powerful and popular. In addition, an aware listener consistently gains knowledge and understanding. To be “in-the-know,” apply the following guidelines and balance your day-to-day duties and networking know-how.
Have a Plan
To be effective with networking, you must have a plan in place. Who are your ideal customers? With whom should you be focusing your networking activities? Once you know the answer to these questions, you can plan the most efficient path for reaching the right crowd.
Keep it Digital – If Possible
Face-to-face networking can be the most effective approach but also consume the most time. If at all possible, stick to digital communications. When you keep it to email or using social media inbox systems, you buy yourself some flexibility. This is critical so you can focus on the priorities of day-to-day operations and spend slack time on correspondence.
Use a 3rd Party
Often a 3rd party can help you build a network on various social networks, leaving you free to focus on your business. A common example is followers on Twitter. Many companies are available for building a following and can help you get your network built up quickly. Then you only have to keep the flow of tweets coming to keep your network in the loop.
Consolidate your Socia Media
An indispensable tool for keeping up with your social media is Hootsuite. It allows you to quickly skim through all your primary social media sites and post updates all at once. You can even schedule posts, giving you the ability to put a calendar of posts together and sending them automatically. Then you can monitor responses and quickly respond to retweets or other commentary happening. Whether you go with Hootsuite or not, the point is that when you can consolidate your social media monitoring and correspondence, you get the most bang for your buck.
Track and Prioritize
A key to success is staying on task and check lists – even if strikingly simple – are a critical tool. Keep networking tasks on the list, but keep your tasks properly prioritized. A common pitfall is to get sidetracked, so take some time every day to get organized and prioritize your efforts. Monitor your progress and adapt as needed.
It can be difficult at times to balance networking and business tasks, especially since networking has the tendency to suck you in. I have found myself on Twitter or LinkedIn and suddenly had no idea how I spent the last two hours “networking”. Therefore, follow the tips above to help you create a much more balanced and successful networking to business task ratio.
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