As a small business owner, you know there are many things you can hire a marketing agency to do for you. Everything from writing blog articles, emails, and special offers to creating images or videos, and even PPC services are easily delegated so you can focus on running your company. Does your website need its plugins updated? When you hire the right people, you don’t have to worry about things like this because it’s something your website maintenance plan covers.
The one thing you can never delegate to your marketing agency or anyone else is in-person networking. You are the only you. You’re the only person who represents your company as the business owner.
Small business networking has many advantages. Not only will you meet your neighbors, but you may also strengthen business connections with colleagues and other business owners in similar niche industries looking to partner in creative ways you haven’t considered. Networking also has the potential to improve your Local SEO.
Whether you are a business owner with a brick-and-mortar location or you work from a home office, if you want to increase awareness about your business in your community, you need to schedule time to network.
Small Business Networking Ideas
Depending on where you are located, the opportunities to join established networking organizations will vary. However, you may find that it’s worth the effort to invite a group of like-minded professionals to meet once a month if a group does not already exist in your area.
Before you do so, check with your Chamber of Commerce, Park District, Library, and Rotary chapters to see if local groups of business professionals are meeting for networking events.
In my city, the business community offers many networking opportunities, including:
The opportunities are not all applicable to every business owner. However, every event I’ve attended so far has incorporated a similar goal— business growth. Everyone is motivated to make their company more visible in the community. They are happy to promote other businesses when it makes sense and partner together to serve the community. They understand that networking can potentially elevate the Local SEO of both companies.
In addition to attending local lunches or meetings, there are additional ways to conduct in-person networking in your community.
Host a Free Business Networking Event
Using Facebook, Google Business Profile, Meetup, and Eventbrite, you can promote a free event online. You can use Canva to create a free graphic that will fit each platform separately. Here is an example of what it looks like to add an event to your Google Business Profile.
With free promotion taken care of, you can create an in-person event that will serve your buyer persona well and support your business. Check out your local co-working workspace to reserve a meeting area that business owners already gather in! They are likely to help promote your event as well.
The ideas for events are endless. Let’s say you work in real estate. You may want to consider doing a presentation on staging your house or great ideas for curb appeal.
A bank or financial consultant could do a presentation on how to get started with investing. Another option would be to present ways to increase cash flow as a small business owner. Knowing who your target persona is will help drive this decision.
Hosting a free event shows your community that their best interests are your priority and builds trust. When you put together a helpful presentation, you will find those in attendance are willing to talk about you with their friends and family as well.
Place Your Logo Everywhere
Everywhere may be an exaggeration. However, there is nothing wrong with incorporating your logo into as many things as you can. Include a business card when donating a basket to the local PTA auction. When sponsoring a club soccer team, add your logo to the jerseys. Did the local high school request advertising for their media guide? Great! Add one that wishes the team good luck from your company.
Toss your business card into drawings for free lunches, wear clothing with your company logo on it when out in the community and carry a binder or bag that also promotes your business. You may want to consider adding a decal to your car as well. Are you a coffee lover? Add a sticker to your travel mug.
Take your support a step further by supporting the local teams in person while wearing your company logo shirt. You may enjoy the game and increase your opportunities to meet new potential customers.
Buy pens and give them away. Include your company information. When someone asks to borrow a pen, tell them to feel free to keep it. Hopefully, they will use it often and keep your company fresh in their mind.
The more frequently people catch a glimpse of your logo, the more curious they will be to learn about this business that continues to cross their path and invest in the community.
Successful Networking Includes Leveraging Social Media
Just because you are networking in person doesn’t mean you can’t use social media. Take a selfie at a networking event with a colleague and tag them with a caption about how great it is to get to know more about their company.
Partnering with local companies on projects or at different local fundraisers is a great way to show your community you are invested in establishing deep roots and supporting other businesses.
You can also use social media to welcome new businesses to the community. A little good will never hurt anyone, and the new business will likely be very thankful for the warm welcome and will remember your name. When the time is right, you can follow up and meet the new business owner in person and see if there is a way for your companies to collaborate.
Offer Referral Discounts
One of the best ways to thank loyal customers is by offering referral discounts. When you have developed a great relationship with a customer who trusts you and believes in your company, they are likely already referring people your way. Let your customers know that you have a referral program when you see them.
Reward your loyal evangelists by sending them a coupon for a discount on a future purchase or if they are on a monthly retainer, delight them by reducing their bill one month with a note thanking them for referring you to new customers.
How Networking Improves Local SEO
Every time you attend a networking event, you have an opportunity to tell people about your business. As you increase people’s awareness, they will check out your social media pages and website so they can quickly find your services when they need them.
The more people that search for your website and business location, the better. Google algorithms are constantly updated as Google understands searchers’ intent better.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that Google’s main goal is to provide users with the most useful search results, so users continue to trust Google to help them find the answers to their problems. Once a potential client has visited a website, when they search for similar results, the same information will pull up again with a shaded link that is purple instead of blue, indicating that it is a website they have visited before.
The more awareness people have about your business, the more likely they are to call you when they need your services, recommend you, and look to partner with you. All of these are excellent opportunities to increase your Local SEO.
Additionally, small business owners know the value of reviews and are more likely to add positive reviews to their Google Business Profile when possible.
Community involvement and networking enable you to add a page to your website featuring your community activities. You can write little summaries and include optimized pictures with alt tags that include the name of the event, the company, and the location. You can also link to the event in your summary.
For example, if you sponsor the local little league team, you could post a few photos of the championship game and congratulate the team on a great season. Since you have placed your logo on the uniforms, you don’t necessarily need to be in the photos, however, you will want to get permission to place them on your website.
This will improve Local SEO by incorporating additional location information on your website. The location information will help Google web crawlers index your site accurately for location search queries. An added benefit is that this builds trust with local community members who will see your involvement in action.
If you aren’t incorporating in-person networking into your marketing tool belt, I encourage you to delegate as much as possible to your marketing agency and focus on doing what only you as the business owner can do, be you!
If you are interested in working together to create a Local SEO marketing strategy, send us an email. We understand every client requires a unique strategy that fits their needs.
This article was originally published on July 11, 2019 and has been updated with fresh content.