Meeting area business owners can get your name out there and inspire goodwill.
A smart small business owner knows that having a great product is not the only thing needed for success. Networking with the local business community can open up opportunities and also can provide support from people experiencing the same challenges.
The simplest way to get started is to take a walk. Go to the businesses in your area and introduce yourself to the managers and owners. Take along several business cards. Talk about your business and find out about theirs.
Explore ways you could work together on promotions or to make the neighborhood more attractive and inviting. Let the businesses know you are happy to pitch in on a cleanup day, for instance, and give them coupons they can use at your business. That could cement a future customer base because most people say they prefer to shop local.
Inviting local businesses to an opening event at your store or restaurant also will get people in the door. Hand out samples, T-shirts, coupons, etc., to get your name on people’s minds.
Another easy way to interact with local business owners is to attend a business meetup. You can swap advice with fellow owners/franchisees and hear how others have overcome hurdles. Meetup.com is a good place to look for gatherings in your city and BNI.com offers a global network of contacts.
Building a referral network and online presence through social networking sites is vital. Networking sites are great places to boost your customer referral base, but these sites also offer a great mentoring opportunity. You also can connect with small-business owners who live in other parts of the country but may have similar businesses and can share advice.
Offering a scholarship or sponsoring a Little League team gets your name out there and makes people feel good about your business. You also could offer to speak at the local high school about being a business owner or hire mentally or physically disabled people to work at your business.
Allow local clubs or organizations to meet in your restaurant. This generates goodwill and can lead to return customers. Follow up with those who give you their cards; thank them for coming and ask if their experience was pleasant.
People who live in your city or town are likely to look you up online and patronize your business if they know you are active in the community and care about the people who live there.