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As a busy entrepreneur, it may be a challenge to find time to network and expand your reach. White these activities do take time, think of it as an INVESTMENT of time that will help you to generate sales leads. An added benefit to networking is that it helps you stay aware of industry trends, the needs of your target market and the activities of our competitors. Here are a few effective ways to network with potential customers and other business owners.

Connect on social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram allow you to engage with others in your industry and target market. Join Facebook Groups and offer helpful tips during discussions. Don’t sell too hard, just add value and people will be drawn to you and often send referrals.

Speak at webinars or conferences. By offering to share your knowledge at events (or virtual events) you can have a one to many communication scenario where people will sign up with the event host and you’ll create awareness about your business. Focus on offering educational content, not pitching your services.

Join industry associations. Being a part of a group that supports service providers in your field is a great way to stay current with market conditions. In these organizations, it’s a safe space to share strategies, without the awkwardness of feeling a sense of competition with your competitors. Often, referrals are made from one to another if your skills are slightly more specialized or your colleagues are at capacity and choose to send a customer your way.

Get active at your local Board of Trade. Most cities have a Board of Trade or Chamber of Commerce that supports small business owners. They frequently schedule networking events and professional development opportunities. Getting active on one of their subcommittees is a very effective way to become well-known in your community.

Ask for referrals. The most compelling motivation for customers to work with a service provider is a recommendation from someone whom they trust. Ask one of your satisfied customers to refer a friend. Also ask your own friends to refer a customer!

Volunteer your time. Volunteering is a great way to show people that you care, meet new people, and have some fun along the way. Choose a charity, sports organization or association that you are genuinely interested in, and participate as often as you like. The more times people see you, the more they will become familiar with you and when a need arises, they’ll call on you first.

Give someone else a referral. People always appreciate it when you help them solve a problem. Being someone who is well-connected makes you the “go-to” person and people may reach out to you on many other occasions. Having a constant stream of communication with your business community keeps people connected to you and top of mind. It’s all about staying in touch.

Want to learn more about effective networking, sales and marketing? Check out our free online course, “Sales and Marketing”.

If you’re ready to take the next step, book a meeting with an experienced Business Advisor at Small Business Centres Ontario. We have 54 offices across Ontario.  Working with a Business Advisor means you are not alone and that you can get help to build your plan.  Find a location near you.