Networking Tips for Small Business Owners
Often, when I talk to small business owners about networking, many say they have no time to network. They are too busy.
I have heard that many times. Who isn’t busy today? I also know that many small business owners have simply selected the wrong priorities in allocating their time.
Everybody has the same amount of time. Just 1440 minutes in a day. What differs is how we allot the precious asset of time in our lives. According to the New York Times, Americans still watch over four and a half hours of TV a day. That’s 300 minutes a day. Lots of networking time there.
There is no doubt that most people earmark their time to the things they like doing versus should be doing. Chasing what you like is easy. You need to shift your time allocation to the business goals that you want to achieve.
Networking should be one of the first priorities for small business owners, because 75% of all business comes from the referrals generated by your network. It is ironic that when business is challenging, the first thing that people say is that they need to be out there. But as Harvey McKay so aptly pointed out, you need to dig your well before you are thirsty.
Too many small business owners shove networking to the back burner. Then again, too many small business owners are in their business versus on top of their business.
When I ask most small business owners if they are ambassadors for their business, they all vigorously agree. However, sometimes ambassadors need to leave their embassies. It is the optimum way to build your network and your business.
I also think that time is different for solopreneurs, freelancers and other small business owners in the today’s New Normal. I recently wrote a blog about how the hands of time tick in my world.
A recent study found that today 43% or small business owners spend 6 or more hours on social networks and that amount of time has increased over the last year. Some may consider that time networking, but most of that time should be allocated to marketing and not networking. Posting offers on your Facebook page is not networking. Even though social media has exploded and has great marketing benefits, face time and not Facebook leads to relationships. When is the last time that a complete stranger contacted you and said I want to do business with you?
I have a very significant online presence. If you Google Hank Blank I am pages deep with my content and I do not spend my entire day sitting at my computer talking to the internet.
So, how do you allocate your networking time to optimize your daily 1440 minutes? First you need a plan. What are you networking objectives? What do you want to achieve? A plan will allow you to better allocate your time and provide direction on who you should network with and what networking events should you attend.
To expand my time, I have always harnessed the slash smarts of today’s young people. I have used paid interns to distribute my thought leadership. They can’t write my blogs but they can certainly post my content in relevant places.
Networking also isn’t an additional activity you need to add to the tasks you have to do every day. Networking is a way of life. If you buy into that it will give you networking clarity. To be a great networker you need an attitude of engagement. You can expand your network simply by taking to the people around you. You can be a lemming standing in line at Starbucks or interacting with the people around you. You never know if the person behind or in front of you is a business prospect. You will never know unless you engage with the people around you. I got my first client sitting around a fire at my neighborhood bar having a glass of wine. I talked to another person, gave them my car and low and behold they needed a brochure and I had my first project.