small business networking for women entrepreneurs

These networking ideas for small businesses are the same things I use to grow my service-based business. Creating a referral network is one of the best ways to grow your business, and by networking, you’ll be creating that, well, network!

Online Networking Ideas for Small Businesses

Find Niche Facebook Groups

If you’re serving a niche audience with your business, chances are there are quite a few Facebook groups where that audience is hanging out. Even joining local entrepreneurship Facebook groups and the like can be helpful!

For example, I work with a lot of photographers, so I’m in a Facebook group where photographers go to ask for help with SEO. I’m also in the groups for my website host and CRM platforms and I find new clients there frequently! Be wary of job board groups as those get inundated with requests for the same service. Rather, find groups where you can stand out. It takes a little bit of digging, but just look things up that relate to what you do! At last resort, you can join local yard sale groups.

Within these Facebook groups, I like to wait for the perfect opportunity before posting about my business. For example, I’m in groups in which participants will specifically ask for help with website copywriting. That’s where I’ll jump in and add my comment. I am in a few groups in which ‘ads’ are okay, but I rarely post those as they don’t get quite as much return.

Here’s a list of questions you can use as you’re trying to find Facebook groups:

  1. Is my ideal client in this group?
  2. Why is my ideal client in this group?
  3. Does the purpose of this group relate to what I do?
  4. Would it be appropriate for me to offer my services if asked? Can I post ads about my business? (Make sure that it’s okay to pitch your business by verifying the group rules.)
  5. Would I be competing against a lot of other professionals in this group or am I one of a few?
  6. Can I learn or benefit from others by being in this group?

Use Instagram Stories, Hashtags & DMs

By sharing my life as an entrepreneur on Instagram, I’ve encountered an entire community of small business owners. It’s perfect because those are the people I serve! I use hashtags on my posts, and follow specific hashtags too, to find more people to engage with.

In addition, I ask questions, have genuine conversations and I’m not afraid to make friends on the platform!

I also share tips and behind the scenes content on my stories, which helps to add value. If you share quality content and have real, transparent conversations with people, this becomes its own form of networking and only helps to grow your business! (And you feel less alone as an entrepreneur.)

Local Event Networking Ideas for Small Businesses

Look Up Facebook Events

Facebook actually has an event category just for networking! Use that section to your advantage to find networking events you can attend. Be sure to read the description and verify whether or not there’s a cost or membership fee. You’ll find a mix of both free and paid events!

Check Community Calendars

Your library, local chamber of commerce and maybe even your church likely have community calendars! Look them up and see if there are any events that might be helpful for your business. Chambers of commerce often host networking, referral and educational events. They do have a membership fee, but they may allow you to visit a couple of events before officially joining. It doesn’t hurt to ask! Chambers of commerce have been often viewed as a corporate good old boy’s club, but that means you’ll likely be one of the only writers, web developers, photographers, etc. in the group! That only works in your favor, and you’ll help to break the stereotype. Here’s an overarching list of organizations you should look up:

  • Libraries
  • Chambers of commerce
  • 1 Million Cups (often free & weekly meetings full of entrepreneurs!)
  • City events
  • Small Business Development Center
  • Tuesdays Together (local chapters of entrepreneurs, supported by Honeybook)
  • Local universities or colleges
  • Nonprofits
  • Women’s organizations
  • Meetup (an app with local events)
  • Global Entrepreneurship Week (one week a year in some communities)

Host Your Own Networking Event

Don’t see an event that would be beneficial to you? Consider hosting your own! It could be an opportunity to market your business and meet other entrepreneurs.

Benefits of Networking

Word-of-mouth referrals

It’s simple. The more people that know you and know what you do, the more likely you are to receive word-of-mouth referrals. You may even meet new clients directly at events like those above.

Collaborations & partnerships

You may meet other business owners that you can collaborate with! Check out my post here on collaboration ideas.

Inspiration & education

You can learn so much from other business owners. Pick their brains, ask them how they got started and how they bring in new clients.

Tips for Networking Success

Whether you’re meeting people online or in person, here are the strategies I use for the most success:

Don’t be a walking billboard.

The worst thing you can do is be a pushy, walking advertisement. Of course you can introduce yourself and briefly explain what you do (leave room for questions), but don’t push your services onto people. Let them ask if they’re interested. You want to work with people who want to work with you!

Ask others about their businesses.

People love to talk about themselves! Even if you hardly get a word in about your business, they’ll walk away with a good feeling because you let them talk. And if you run into them again, they’ll remember how wonderful it was talking to you and maybe by then, they’ll ask about what you do. Plus, entrepreneurship is a good subject to find commonalities. You may find that you have quite a bit to talk about!

Don’t expect perfection from yourself.

If you haven’t been networking before, it is often completely uncomfortable! You walk into a room full of strangers and you stumble over your words. Remember that with each networking event you attend, you’ll be practicing your elevator pitch (which you need to do!) and you’ll be meeting more people.

Have courage.

Networking requires a lot of courage. You have to introduce yourself to strangers, talk about your business and try to feel comfortable in a room where you’d rather run out and get back to work behind the computer. But over time, you’ll get better at it and it will become comfortable! Plus, if you become a regular to networking events, you’ll find that others are regulars too and you’ll be entering a room full of friends rather than a room full of strangers.

Wear something you don’t have to fidget with.

You know how you respond when you’re nervous. Don’t let your clothes become an inconvenience. Wear comfortable shoes, a top you won’t have to fidget with, and if you tend to perspire from awkward encounters, then wear the right clothes and bring a stick of deodorant. Dress for success. It will make you feel more confident!

What’s your biggest networking fear? DM me on Instagram @saltedpages and let’s chat!

Networking Ideas for Small Businesses

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