Make Local Networking Work For You
How do you find customers? There are both productive and non-productive methods to increasing your business revenue. If you're like many masonry businesses, you rely primarily on your yellow pages listing to attract customers. But is that truly the most productive method? Wouldn't it be better to leverage yourself as your brand, and attract customers through local networking in your city?
Local contacts can be your strongest ally for increased revenue, but focusing on city or town associations and events is a behavior that most business owners overlook or mistakenly put low on their priorities. All it requires, however, is making sure that you are aware of the various local organizations that can both increase your visibility to potential customers and at the same time, provide avenues through which you can improve local business, make contacts, and in the case of civic or charity organizations, "do good" as well.
Sole proprietor and partner owners are perhaps guiltiest of not leveraging their local networking capabilities to the fullest. Are you guilty of this? Is it because you think you're wasting your time, or worried that service professionals such as printers will pester you once they have your contact information, or because you can't find enough hours in the day? As the saying goes, you can't dominate a market or industry until you own your own turf, and that begins with the city in which your business is headquartered.
There are several categories of groups that can be a boon to your business:
- Chambers of Commerce
- Industry Associations
- Civic Groups
- Professional Development Groups
- Charity Organizations
- Political Campaigns
- Religious Affiliations
The wonderful aspect of public relations is the power of referrals. It's the business equivalent of six degrees of separation. By working closely with individuals on a common civic, business, industry, religious, political or charitable goal, you get to know them better. In turn, they get to know you and your business better, and you gain top of mind share when someone asks them if they know anyone in the masonry business. Think it's a long shot? Then you haven't witnessed the true power of local PR. Engage yourself this year and choose an activity that you will find of interest, whether it's developing speaking skills through Toastmasters, networking at a local Chamber of Commerce, or participating in a political campaign. It's important to participate in an activity in which you have some passion, and not just show up in hopes of gaining customers. You want to create a positive halo of influence based on your true interests.
Relying solely on your professional business contacts means that you miss the total picture. You might as well carve out an identity for your business in your local community as well. You may not run into potential customers through these local activities, and then again, you may ? and you will represent to them a known quantity, instead of an impersonal listing in the yellow pages. Or more likely, the people you meet and work with will have relatives, friends and other business acquaintances that could be potential customers for you. Focusing just on a passive listing or a direct mail campaign is like eating a cake without the icing ? why not go after the complete experience and increase both bottom line revenue as well as the priceless intangible of goodwill? Make this a goal for 2003.
About the Author
Linda VandeVrede is the principal of VandeVrede Public Relations, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that serves clients nationwide. VandeVrede Public Relations offers expertise in public relations, crisis planning, issues management and analyst relations.