Out of OfficeOut of Office Blog

How to Engage with the Small Business Community and Small Business Expert

John JantschJohn Jantsch

Networking1 The concept of community is not new. We’re all part of multiple communities. Our hometowns, current cities, neighborhoods, churches, and schools are all communities.

What is common to these communities is that the people that make them up are drawn by shared interests and goals.

The small business world is no different. We are brought together by a shared experience. We’ve built businesses, followed our dreams, struggled and hopefully, eventually succeeded. The industries and businesses are not interchangeable, but the experience is the same.

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I think that is why the small business community is so strong. Small Business Week is a perfect example of that strength. Every year, we celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit that we all share and receive just a bit of recognition for that stick-to-itiveness that has made every one of you successful, regardless of your bottom line.

So in honor of Small Business Week, here are some ways you can engage the other members of the small business community, and leverage those relationships to grow your business.

Network, network, network

I get it; sometimes when you’re done with the work day, it’s easier to go home, put your feet up and crash in front of the TV. Networking may seem like a chore to many of you. But meeting other small business owners will benefit your business.

Even just on the surface level, conversations with other small business owners can give you inspiration for future endeavors, or at the very least give you an interesting story to share. You may even encounter another business owner that may be in need of your services, and this isn’t just for B2B either. If you’re a plumber, you may just run into someone really in need of plumbing services.

In networking situations, you build trust with potential customers and business partners because it’s not an environment where selling happens, it arises organically. Don’t be pushy, but seize an opportunity if it presents itself.

And for those of us that tend to want to stay home, there are opportunities to network online. Joining a LinkedIn group of local small business owners or professionals in your industry can prove very helpful.

Networking2Develop Strategic Partnerships

Too many small businesses see other small businesses as competitors, when in fact, they should look to make partnerships. Strategic partnerships are one of the strongest ways to generate and give referrals.

Now there are two things I hope you keep in mind when building your strategic network. Number one, your strategic partners must, in fact, be strategic. These are partners that serve your same ideal customer and that you feel 100% confident that you would send your best customer to by way of referral.

Secondly, these partnerships take time and effort to develop. It’s not something that can happen whenever you think of it. You must keep a relationship with your partners, always remember to refer them, and build trust with them just as you would any customer.

Finally, you must trust your strategic partner. Vet them and their business before entering into a strategic partnership. The worst thing you could do is refer someone to them, have them upset your customer with poor service, and lose that customers’ trust in you.

This trust must go both ways, so, of course, take good care of your referred customers.

Use Strategic Partnerships

It does you no good to build a strategic partnership and not use it. Referrals are great, but that’s just the beginning of what a strong strategic partnership can do for your business.Networking3

Remember, if you found a partner who’s audience perfectly aligns with your target, there is no reason your partnership can’t go beyond just referrals.

Reach out to your partner and work on cross promotions. Regardless of the products, if your target audiences align, you’ll be able to work together to create something compelling for the market. Think about it, a landscape company and a plumber may not have much in common, but a promotion that would fix a septic backup then beautify their lawn may bring both companies business.

The bottom line here is that it’s not enough to just shake hands and say you’re partners, do something with the partnership.

Strength in Numbers

Running a small business is hard. But that struggle is what binds us all together as a small business community.

This Small Business Week, take the time to engage the small business community in your area. Start networking, building a strategic partnership and working with your partner to grow your business. The potential benefits of being a part of your community are endless.

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and best selling author Duct Tape Marketing, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine. His blog was chosen as a Forbes favorite for marketing and small business and his podcast, a top ten marketing show on iTunes was called a “must listen” by Fast Company magazine.

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