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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unconventional Networking for Small Businesses By Caterina Christakos

If you're a small business owner, you're probably quite well aware of the traditional methods for networking and making business contacts. Seminars, conventions, and other types of industry gatherings are the traditional places, not to mention cooperative partnerships with like-minded businesses related to your niche. However, throughout the history of business, the most successful entrepreneurs have always gone beyond these conventional networking sources and made connections in often surprising places. To be a great networker, it has to be a lifestyle. It should be something that you do every day, sometimes in creative ways.
If you're on the lookout for unconventional networking opportunities, here are some options you might want to try.
Waiting time: One of the unfortunate facts of life is that we sometimes have to do things that require us to wait in waiting rooms or stand in lines for hours at a time. For example, waiting in line at the DMV can be an infuriating process not just because it's an unpleasant place but also because you feel like there are so many better things that you could be doing with your time. But why not take these opportunities to do a little networking? Start up a conversation with someone else in line and see if an opportunity arises to spread the word about your business.
Aim high: You can get a lot of things out of networking to other small business owners and anyone who is roughly on your level in the business world. But if you want to get extra bang for your buck, consider targeting the more powerful people in industry. If you come across an opportunity to get your business' message in front of someone who is high up in a company relevant to your niche, don't waste it. Getting powerful people in your favor is great way to build your business quickly.
Be outgoing: Even if you're not a naturally outgoing person, you can do your business big favors if you have the boldness to simply strike up conversations with people in situations where most people usually keep to themselves. For example, on an airplane, in the grocery store, or on public transit--all of these are perfect situations where simply being outgoing and talking to people can have hugely positive networking effects.
Web communities: Of course, everyone knows about the importance of social media marketing these days, but in order to be a top networker, one must go beyond the conventional Twitter feeds and Facebook fan pages. Try to set aside some time every day to actively participate in communities relating to your field. Simply getting your voice out there and talking with others who have similar concerns to yours is a powerful way to make contacts.
Community groups and civic meetings: Start participating in neighborhood and community board meetings, and also take part in activities and meetings relating to your kids' school. Community involvement is a great thing, but meetings such as these also provide ample opportunity to network with people who live in your area.
About the Author: Caterina Christakos is a published author and reviewer. Read her latest articles on votive candles and where to buy candles at a discount.

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