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Tips for using networking to grow your small business

Networking can be one of the most valuable tools that you have to grow your business. If you are a small business owner then this is especially true. You can use networking to help you find both potential clients and key contacts that can help you to grow your small business. You can also use networking as a method of "word of mouth" advertising that lets others know what you can offer them and where to find you. However, the main benefit to networking is that you can do all of this without having to spend a lot of money. Here are some tips for using networking to grow your small business-

- Never go anywhere without a business card-One of the most important things you can do when you are trying to network is to make sure that you always have business cards with you. You should never go anywhere that you don't have a least a couple of business cards tucked into your pocket and ready to hand out. You never know when you will come across someone who will be interested in what your small business has to offer. Whether you are waiting in line at the bank or attending a business event having your business card ready to hand out will give the person you are networking with a visual reminder of you and your small business. It is important to keep in mind though that there is a difference between being assertive and aggressive when you are networking.
- Find the right people to network with-While you should never pass up an opportunity to attract a potential client you should also make sure that you are focusing your networking on talking with the right people. Remember, that your goal is to find people who can help you grow your small business. This means that you will need to find the people who have the abilities and the means to help you do this. You should make sure that you are not wasting time networking with those people who may not be able to help you in the long run.
- Be in the right places to network-Part of being successful with networking is being in the right place. While you can network virtually anywhere there are places that will yield better networking success. You want to make sure that if you are trying to make industry contacts that you go where they are. It can be helpful to attend trade shows, conferences, exhibitions, and other events that are related to your industry. This is where you will find the people that you will be able to network with successfully. Keep in mind that these networking opportunities not only allow you to show off what your small business has to offer but it can expose you to resources that can be instrumental in helping to build your small business, as well. While attending these kinds of events can be time consuming they can pay off big in networking opportunities.
- Consider networking online-You may be surprised to learn that you don't have to network face to face. There are many different opportunities to network online. It can be highly beneficial to join discussion groups and forums that are online. This will give you the chance to talk with people who are interested in the same business issues that you are. Keep in mind that if you can't find a site that fits your needs you can create one through the use of social media marketing. This type of networking has been shown to be beneficial for gaining clients and finding key contacts to help grow your small business.

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