Joining Business Organizations and Networking Groups
The best way to increase name recognition and overall success for your business is still to join business organizations and/or "face-to-face" business networking groups. This is especially important for small businesses trying to sell locally.
Joining organizations or networking groups lets you interact with like-minded people who can be invaluable sources of information and support, and send customers your way.
Benefits of Business Organizations
Many business organizations also offer benefits to members, such as discounts on particular services or products, or special promotional opportunities.
For example, many business networking groups offer members the chance to present their business to the group or get specific business advice. Business organizations with websites often allow members to list their businesses in their online directories for free or advertise without cost on their sites.
Besides the support and camaraderie, belonging to organizations can increase your business's credibility. Many potential clients or customers view membership in relevant business groups as a sign that you're an established business and accepted by your industry.
Industry-Specific or General Business Organizations?
Being a member of an industry-specific business organization is a great way to contribute to the growth of your industry and keep up with advances in your field, as well as an excellent opportunity to learn from others who may have more experience or new ideas.
General business organizations provide opportunities to interact with people in other fields, which can be an eye-opening experience. Many organizations exist for a particular purpose, such as to provide networking for businesses in a specific geographic area. Others focus on community service which can greatly enhance your small business's profile in the community.
Social Media Networking
Meeting other local business people face-to-face and thereby participating in your local community will do more to sell your sprockets or cleaning services that thousands of tweets.
That said, social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, can be excellent networking tools and provide lots of opportunity for engaging customers. Be sure you know what you're doing here; you don't want to come across as inept because that could ultimately damage your brand. You may even consider outsourcing your social media networking to a reputable person or company.
Costs of Joining a Business Networking Group
Membership in many online business groups is free, while many national business organizations offer sliding scale fees based on the size of your business.
Local business organizations are often less expensive to join. For instance, currently, it costs only $35 a year to belong to a local Home-Based Business Association. Now there's a bargain.
With all the benefits and opportunities that business organizations and business networking groups offer, the true question is how you can afford not to join at least one.
It's OK to start small: maybe set a goal of joining at least one business organization or networking group this week, and see how it goes.
If you're looking for local business groups, try contacting your local Chamber of Commerce, or asking business people you know which business organizations they belong to or recommend and/or search for them online.