Large corporations routinely hire public affairs, community relations and corporate citizenship leaders to represent their businesses locally. Why? Some will say it’s to further a big business agenda, and maybe that’s partly the case. More often though, they’ll cite the benefits of supporting your local community, advocating for economic prosperity and most importantly – networking.
As a local business, we’d venture a guess that hiring a community relations employee is not at the top of your priority list. With that in mind, are you doing your part to get your name, and your business’s name, out there? Here’s why it’s important.
- New Customers – If you can establish yourself as a thought leader in the community, you’ll likely bring in new customers who would much rather trust you before they have to find and try another business they aren’t yet familiar with. (If you can get roped in with a local Chamber of Commerce, many even regularly give awards to top ranking local businesses. How’s that for a new marketing channel?) If the folks attending events with you don’t need your products or service, they likely have friends they’d be more than happy to refer to you.
- Opportunities for Collaboration – Have you ever thought about pursuing a joint venture or a creative business partnership? Those opportunities are out there. Brainstorming these out-of-the-box opportunities is much easier when you’re aware of the other businesses in your neighborhood. Once you’re actively making new friends in your community, you may discover other business owners with common interests and goals. Own a gym? Partner with a local weight loss center on monthly incentives. Own a salon? Partner with a local spa to come up with great offers on beauty and self-care packages.
- Resources for Your Business – Gaining new customers creates growth. It may be hard to admit, but every now and then, you need help too. Once you get to know other prominent local businesses, you’ll likely find you can use them as resources. Need legal services or a new accountant? We’re betting there are a few present at local networking events who’d be willing to help you out.
- Warm and Fuzzies – If you’re not very outgoing, regular community involvement can make networking much more palatable. Not only does it give you a venue to meet people and make friends with similar interests, you may also discover opportunities to give back. Giving back feels good. And, companies that give back happen to get talked about positively by those who notice you donating time or other resources to a good cause.
Now we know why networking is important. We won’t leave you hanging on the “how.” Here’s how to get more involved.
- Join local Chambers of Commerce and other networking groups relevant to your business. More importantly, take advantage of your memberships, and attend dinners and events as regularly as possible.
- Show up at town halls with local government officials. Ask questions, and contribute to the conversation as much as possible. You’ll learn from attending, and you may even be able to voice any concerns or needs you have as well.
- Participate in local fairs, festivals and trade shows. Even if your business doesn’t lend itself to hosting a booth, wear branded gear and bring a handful of business cards along with you.
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