It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. This may be an old idea, but it’s stuck around for a long time because there’s truth in it.

For small businesses, in particular, networking is one of the best ways to keep growing. But it’s a big world out there, so where do you start with networking? 

Well, we’re here to answer that very question with 6 effective networking ideas for small businesses. The ideas we’ll be covering are:

  • 1 – Making online connections
  • 2 – Attending events and conferences
  • 3 – Joining groups
  • 4 – Volunteering 
  • 5 – Collaborating with other businesses
  • 6 – Following up on new contacts

1 – Making online connections

Building an online presence is a vital part of modern business and a great way to make connections. 

Professional sites like Linkedin are a great place to start. The site is completely geared toward professional networking, even suggesting friends who are in similar industries. 

Although, you shouldn’t overlook more informal social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Build a company account, and seek out groups related to your industry to follow. If you post regularly with interesting content and engage with other companies, you’ll soon gain recognition and get followers back. 

Better yet, if there’s a particular company you’re interested in connecting with, specifically mention and tag them in your posts. They’ll appreciate it and, hopefully, return the favour. 

Remember, tone is a big factor when it comes to different social media platforms. Something casual and fun might be more suited to Instagram than Linkedin, so tailor your posts to suit each platform. 

2 – Attending events and conferences

Now that things are beginning to open up again, opportunities for physical networking are back on the table. 

Sign up for as many industry newsletters as you can to stay in the loop for upcoming events. Otherwise, a quick google, or social media search, could show you what’s available in your area. 

Conferences, charity events, and classes are all good places to start. You can make new connections, catch up with existing ones, and maybe even learn some new skills. It’s a great way to nurture professional relationships in a more casual setting. 

The more events like this you attend, the more you’ll become a recognised face in the industry, leading to more opportunities down the line. Most events like this will have detailed itineraries showing who is hosting and appearing. So check those out to make sure it’s worth your time. 

3 – Joining groups

After attending some events and building your social media network, your next move should be to look for groups to join permanently.

Look into industry-specific groups, general small business associations, or even your local chamber of commerce. Groups like these can help you make new connections, offer you advice and guidance, and keep you updated on any significant upcoming changes to your industry. Some memberships will even give you discounts on things like shipping and insurance. 

Most groups have sign-up costs or annual fees, so research them before you join. It would help if you also considered how many active members there are, how often they meet and host events, and how well regarded they are in the industry. 

Once you’ve found the one you like, try to participate as much as possible to get the most out of it. It might also be worth applying for an administrative or leadership role to boost your reputation. 

4 – Collaborating with other businesses

Offering to work directly with other businesses is a great way to build up each other’s networks. Pooling your resources together will let you create an event that’s better than anything either of you could do on your own. 

Not only that, but working with other businesses means you’ll be seen by their audience, and they’ll be seen by yours – a win-win all round. 

If your first collaboration works out, you can use it as an example to convince other businesses to do the same. Some common forms of collaboration are:

  • Guest blogging for each other’s website and social media pages.
  • Co-hosting charity events
  • Bundling products together
  • Team building industry events
  • Promotional messages and discounts for each other’s products

5 – Volunteering

Volunteering for charity events lets you build relationships in the local community while getting some good press for your brand.

There’s no hard-fast rule about who to support. Still, it’s probably best to choose a charity that’s relevant to your industry, important in the local community, or something that affects small businesses in general. 

One-off events are a good start, but you could also consider applying for a role on the board of a non-profit organisation. Anybody can apply, and it’s a great way to make new connections. 

When organising your charity event, remember to cast a wide net. Invite as many people as possible, especially other businesses in your industry, and document the whole event to show on your website and social media. 

6 – Following up on new contacts

This is our final point because it feeds directly into every other part of networking. It’s not enough to make a new contact, send a friend request on Linkedin, then hope for the best. You need to follow up on new contacts if you want to leave an impression.

Nowadays, the average person is overwhelmed with new contacts, so they could easily forget about you unless you follow up with them. This could include an email, phone call, or physical business card. That said, emails are easy to ignore, so something more direct or personal is probably a better idea. 

When you do follow up, make sure to prompt a response. Saying hello, and it was nice meeting them, is a great start. But it doesn’t really give them anything to reply to themselves. 

Try asking them something specific about their business. Or better yet, offer them something you think they’d find useful. Most importantly, set up a time and date to have a more in-depth conversation over the phone, video call, or in person. 

Manage your finances with Countingup

Successfully growing your network will lead to more income, which will inevitably lead to more complicated bookkeeping.

Financial management can be stressful and time-consuming when you’re self-employed. That’s why thousands of business owners use the Countingup app to make their financial admin easier. 

Countingup is the business current account with built-in accounting software that allows you to manage all your financial data in one place. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.