Developing a business network is one of the most beneficial things any new entrepreneur can do. Having a community around helps make running your business so much easier for many different reasons--you have a network of people that you can ask advice from, you have other businesses that you can partner with, and you have outlets to gain insight on the business world from a different perspective that you can use to innovate. However, many small business owners struggle with building up their professional network; after all, when you are taking care of all of the operations and other responsibilities that come with running your own business, how can you also have time to socialize? Fortunately, OTHER entrepreneurs have picked up on this difficulty and have developed tools that can help you build your network in no time, including...
1. Lifograph: Though this tool is currently in its beta mode, it is shaping up to be one of the most useful tools out there for entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. It is an encyclopedia of other business owners and venture capitalists that can be looked at in many different ways to not only provide the means to reach out to people within your business community, but to understand their place in the community and evaluate how important that connection could be for you.
2. Let's Lunch: This business networking tool does exactly what it says it does; it connects two entrepreneurs together to have lunch. You set up a lunch meeting and get connected. It's a great way to meet other business owners and like minded entrepreneurs like yourself.
3. Happening: Have you ever wanted an aggregate service that will show you when the latest conferences, trade shows, and other relevant events that could help your business grow will happen? Happening does exactly that! It lists the events in chronological order so that you can plan ahead, giving you ample opportunities to go out and meet other professionals who are looking to network as well (after all, that is most of the reason for business gatherings).
4. LinkedIn: At this point, pretty much every small business owner has a LinkedIn page, however, some small business owners do not take the time to regularly use LinkedIn. Many people are using the social networking site in order to network with other business owners as well as share content. If you have a LinkedIn page that is not active or does not have quite the polish that you would like it to have, you should get to work on fixing it up, as LinkedIn is one of the biggest networking tools out there for entrepreneurs to use.
5. ScanBizCards: Business cards are pretty much essential; after all, they have all of your social media and other contact information on them in addition to a quick reminder as to why the person you gave it to took your card. They even allow you to somewhat brand yourself through their appearance. However, business cards are also somewhat easy to lose, which makes this app extremely useful. When you use it, you take a picture of the business card and it scans it into your contacts, properly filling in email addresses, social media profiles, names, and of course, telephone numbers.
With so many tools available at your fingertips to network, there is no excuse why you as a small business owner should not be devoting at least some time every day to building that network and building yourself up. Building a reputation directly with your customers is one thing, but once you have a reputation in the industry, partnerships, and the overall strength that having a great business network gives you, there will be more in it for you. Not only will you experience a higher rate of success with your customers because they will know of your larger reputation in the industry, but you will have more respect within your industry, which will only lead to more opportunities down the line. Networking is the best way to grow, and it is time to get to work on doing just that with your business!