8 CREATIVE NETWORKING IDEAS TO BUILD YOUR BUSINESS
So, you’ve finally set up your business after months of planning and you’re beyond excited – just one little problem: you don’t have a single client.
Getting word out about your business is vital – and if you’re just starting out you probably dread the thought of standing up to present yourself to a room of suits at intimidating breakfast networking meetings.
Don’t worry – there are lots of creative ways to network and build up a clientele that won’t make you break out in a sweat. Fiona Clark, founder of Inspired Mums, who is passionate about helping mums to find work that fits around their families, has some ideas to get you started.
1. Involve friends and family. Be proud of what you do and tell everyone what you’re up to and the type of clients you’d love to work for. The school run is great for making useful work connections.
2. Don’t neglect LinkedIn. It’s an easy way to reconnect with ex-colleagues, bosses, and school or university friends and to tell them what you’re doing.
3. Contribute to online forums. Visit discussion boards frequented by your target market and get involved, offer suggestions, comment on other people’s posts. You could also offer to write guest blog posts to influential sites in your niche – so, if you’re targeting mums like Inspired Mums – consider pitching interesting, informative advice articles to Talented Ladies Club, Mumazine or London Mums.
4. Be proactive on Facebook and Twitter. Don’t underestimate the power of social media – it’s a great way of letting the world know what you’re doing – as long as you approach it in a strategic way – meaning follow people you’d like to target and influential people in your industry and share informative and entertaining information related to your industry. You could even offer to do a live Q&A session on an influential Facebook page answering their followers’ questions… for example Inspired Mums regularly has a Q&A on the Mother & Baby magazine Facebook page.
5. Attend networking groups. If formal breakfast meetings don’t work for you, consider joining the more women-friendly, lunchtime groups (such as Athena or Women in Business Network). Don’t just think business connections, although you are very likely to make some, but these groups are also a source of support for people working alone from home.
6. Visit industry events. Not only are they good for staying on top of trends, but it’s also an excellent way to network informally and meet useful contacts who may have good synergies with your business
7. Offer to do local talks or workshops or (if you sell products) take up a stall at local markets or events – it helps get your brand out there and can be used to secure free PR in local papers and magazines.
8. Work for free. This may sound counter-productive, but it is a good way to get started. Complete a project for a charity or school in return for a testimonial or case study to use on your website – the more people who can vouch for you, the better.
If you’re thinking of setting up your own business or wanting to grow your existing business, Fiona offers small business coaching for mumpreneurs – covering every aspect of setting up your own business, from marketing and selling yourself to setting goals and budgeting.