Cultivate | The key to unlocking your community as an SME
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-51688,single-format-standard,edgt-core-1.1,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,vigor child-child-ver-1.0.0,vigor-ver-1.7, vertical_menu_with_scroll,smooth_scroll,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.0.1,vc_responsive

The key to unlocking your community as an SME

Why building and retaining your network remains a must for every small business 

“Your network is your net worth” said Porter Gale, an internationally renowned public speaker, networker, and entrepreneur. This gem holds true to this day, especially as SMEs operate in an increasingly digital world. It’s also said that people like to work with people they like so cultivating connections with others – without it being for obvious business or generating revenue – is key to starting and growing your SME. 

Building relationships should not only have a business outcome as its only goal as this can be seen as disingenuous. Instead, these highly precious connections should be nurtured, like any personal relationship, and oftentimes that means engaging with others for nothing at all – at least not in the short term. 

Pre-LinkedIn and the like, start-ups, SMEs and big businesses physically hustled and lent into their networks for guidance, support, advice and sometimes even finances. While this can now be done digitally, it continues to pay professional dividends to meet with others in the flesh. This could be over a coffee or working lunch, meeting at an industry event or trade show, being introduced by someone else in your network (this adds significant credibility) who can help you, etc. 

These interactions should not be just about you either. You need to be able to give what you get: if you are a provider of services or goods, consider what value you can offer someone else, whether that is a resource that they could benefit from in their own business or professional capacity, or the network you can open up for them. 

Through networking and building a community you could generate viable leads or referrals. For instance, being recommended by someone else is extremely positive as it is unfiltered endorsement. 

So how do you get started? Here are a few pointers. 

  1. Go for coffee: reach out to someone you know in your industry, or from previous employment days and catch up. Work doesn’t even need to be spoken about. 
  2. Attend events: trade shows, industry talks, workshops, online business groups, etc. They’re all worth showing face at, and meeting others. Just put your phone down, except when you save someone’s number. 
  3. Accept invitations: if you’re invited to do a talk, host a panel or contribute to an article or white paper, take up the opportunity with open arms and gratitude. If you can get a copy share it on your LinkedIn or other digital sites to extend its shelf life.
  4. Build rapport online: follow others in your industry and comment from time to time in a genuine way. Perhaps you like someone’s work or perspective; like it and give a hands up without wanting anything in return. 
  5. Share updates on your business: Among those in your existing network you could share a short business update, via email or a newsletter, letting them know of new services or products you may have launched. While this is a harder sell, it keeps your community updated – and they could refer you once it’s clear how your SME has expanded. 
  6. Share testimonials on your website or LinkedIn: While not networking per se, this showcases your work to others and is especially valuable if a customer or client provides you with their experience of your business. It’s invaluable endorsement and can help influence others to use you.  

While all of these are obvious, too few SMEs do them – which can put them at a disadvantage. Leads and enquiries need to generate from somewhere, and while marketing and digital communications are superb at creating possible business opportunities, investing time in others who are aligned to your business in some or other way, in person, is priceless. 

With all of this being said, patience is needed. Networking does not lead to immediate results. It’s an ongoing effort that may only lead to a lead months or years down the line. This is why it’s key to keep up those coffees and create a community that is active and that you participate in regularly. 

No Comments

Post a Comment