Today we have the opportunity to network both online or offline. It’s easy to meet people on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked from all over the globe. If you have a local business is also important be networking in person to make sure that you are meeting people who can spread the word about your service to their friends and families.

For the past 7 years running my pet sitting business part time and working a 8-5 job, in person networking was always a frustration for me because most meetings were in the morning or at lunch times and I just couldn’t make it to the meetings and back to work in time. Even if you are in the same situation you can still get out in the evenings or on weekends and meet people through meet up groups and local pet rescues. These can be great places to have fun with you pets, make new friends, and be able to build a local network of pet loving contacts.

Since I’ve had more time I have pursued other networking opportunities and one of the first places I chose to try out was 2 of my local Chambers of Commerce. I joined up at the Southlake and Grapevine chambers and have been trying out their weekly or bi-weekly leads groups, ribbon cuttings and mixers. These have been great for business! I’ve not only met new people but have also:

  • Found new opportunities to market my business through local directories and co-operative advertising
  • Been connected to other business owners who can help make running my business easier
  • Been invited to several other networking groups – ie found new opportunities to meet new people
  • Won a 1 page business profile in a local magazine (door prize at a chamber lunch)
  • Found out about local events where I can advertise my business
  • Got at least 2 new pet sitting clients who have been referred to me by people I’ve met at networking functions
  • Met people who have attended my local pet first aid classes
  • Met contacts who own local businesses that will display ads for my business to their customers for free (for example a place mat ad on the counter of a local pack and ship store)

When you get started networking jump in and try out as many local networking groups as you can find. Your local chamber of Commerce is a great start and will allow you to find out about other smaller networking groups. Once you have tried out a few groups decide which ones you are most comfortable with and that will benefit you the most and decide to join the groups and commit to visiting 2-3 events each week.

When you go to a networking meeting :

  • Give an introduction that not only tells what you do – but explains the benefits of your service and why you are unique
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice (many of the people you meet will be other business owners)
  • Listen for opportunities where you can help the people you meet grow their business or connect them with people you know
  • Let people know what type of clients you are currently looking for to grow your business
  • Ask people how you can help them find new clients
  • Ask people if they know how you can connect with owners of other pet businesses in your local area

After the meeting make sure you follow up with the people you meet by sending an email,  requesting to have a coffee or lunch so that you can learn more about their business, or sending a card.

Be on the lookout for people you meet that may value the services of the other people in your networking groups and make referrals.  These referrals will come back around to you – when you help people grow they will naturally want to help you!

Where do you network?  Which types of groups have you found the best contacts with?  What have you gained from networking?