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Networking to Grow Your Small Business

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 11/8/2009

As a small business owner, you need to know how networking to grow you small business is a necessary tool. These days there are many ways to network, through groups, trade shows, and even social networking. Jean Scheid offers some networking tips.

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    What Is Networking?

    Some business owners think networking is obtaining some customer referrals and showing their presence at a community event or two. Networking is much more these days and includes Internet social networking, off-site networking, and networking groups. What are the best networking ideas to grow your small business?

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    Different Types of Networking

    What is social networking by Martin Canchola The best way to define the different types of networking is to break each one down. With the Internet abundant in all of our lives, networking comes in many shapes and sizes, but which networking option is best for you?

    Networking Groups - Online networking groups like Biznik where their motto is "going it alone..together," is a great way to find networking articles, groups in your area, attend networking workshops both on and off-line, and gain networking tips. Along with business advice, Biznik offers over 350 articles on business networking alone. It is free to join Biznik and you can select your city to start conversations with other business owners in your area. Another idea is to seek out your Chamber of Commerce and inquire about networking workshops and meetings. If there are none in your area, host one.

    Networking by Lifestyle - Many networking experts will tell you that simply finding other business owners in your area and hosting a lunch or event is not enough. Networking by lifestyle in a good way to intertwine your likes, including business likes, by deliberately networking though your lifestyle activities. For example, if golf is your game, you can make a lot of contacts on the golf course, even if they aren't in the same business. Every small business owner you meet through lifestyle networking can offer some sort of advice, tips, and even refer customers.

    Social Networking - With websites like Facebook, Twitter, Digg and StumbleUpon, you can turn your website or blog into a network by sharing your knowledge and asking questions. Writers on Bright Hub often use these social networking services to promote their articles, read articles of colleagues and link to other writer's websites. Read Five of the Best Social Networking Sites to Help Market Your Business to gain valuable knowledge about social networking.

    Trade Shows - How often have you gotten a brochure on an upcoming trade show in your area and just thrown it in the trash? Many business owners think trade shows are all about sales pitches. While vendors do offer best-selling and new products at trade shows, have you ever thought of how many people you could meet at a trade show or how many hands you can pop your business card into? Learn more about the benefits of trade shows by reading Tips for Attending Trade Shows.

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    Networking Tips

    Too Many Social Networks by M Keefe If you want to be effective at networking so it benefits your small business, you have to put in a little effort. Here are some top networking tips to help get you started:

    Lose the Attitude - If you only look at networking as a way to help yourself and only yourself, you aren't networking. Don't run a conversation or dominate a meeting or lunch. Learn to listen and really see what others have to offer as far as advice, connections, and ideas.

    Don't Drop the Ball - Once you've made your first few networking contacts, no matter what venue, don't drop the ball. Follow up with emails and phone calls.

    Reciprocate - If a networking contact is helping you, reciprocate and help them back. Refer a customer or connect them with people within your network.

    Build Your Network - Attending one trade show or networking event does not build a network. Networking takes some time and effort on your part but think about how much you can gain.

    In these days, with all the competition you have, you need to learn how networking can help your small business. Don't look at networking as a necessary evil, look at it as a way to enhance your business at every level, especially the learning level.