When Go2s launched, it had to make a crucial decision about its market approach. When most people hear the words “app,” “social media” or “software development,” they usually think of places like Silicon Valley, California. Go2s founder Mehdi Tehranchi knew that all businesses, even ones that aspire to global, online reach, benefit from a strong foundation built on personal connections and relationships. With that in mind, he chose Brunswick, MD (population 6,100), a former railway freight hub on the Potomac River, as the place to introduce Go2s to a larger audience.
While the choice may seem odd, a small community like Brunswick offers a perfect environment for many different types of networking: a close-knit community with active civic organizations, non-profits, and churches, passionate local businesses, and an open and approachable city government.
As a member of the local Chamber of Commerce we reap the benefits of a Casual Contact Network. Casual contact networks are large, informal groups representing a wide range of business types. They often offer networking events, seminars, and cooperative advertising opportunities.
We’ve talked to members of the local chapter of BNI, an example of a Strong Contact Network. Strong contact networks are groups that meet often (usually once a week) to exchange business leads. Groups typically allow only one representative from a particular business or service area per group in order to prevent competition and ensure that fellow members focus solely on your business when it comes to making recommendations.
Incorporating charitable giving into Go2s’ business model is not only central to our belief in fostering communities built on kindness, respect, and trust, it has also been a valuable part of marketing, testing, and improving our product. If you feel likewise, you might consider joining a Community Service Club. Community Service Clubs are not organized specifically for lead generation, but give business owners a way to get involved with their communities. This “pay it forward” mentality works for those who want to plant deep roots in a community and wish to surround themselves with like-minded people.
Another valuable way to network is to ask yourself, “who benefits the most from my business?” Then go where those customers gather and address a critical need. For Go2s, this means seeking out sponsorship opportunities for the non-profit groups that would benefit most from our unique communication tools.
If your customers are members of a Professional Association, find out whether the association offers a “Corporate” or “Associate” member category. These categories are geared towards vendors whose services are used by full association members. Then introduce yourself not by advertising to them, but by showing them what you can do. For example, if you are a florist, baker or printer, join the Association of Bridal Consultants as a Corporate member. Then offer to provide flowers, dessert, or programs for their next event.
Last, but certainly not least, use Online and Social Media Networks to build your brand. Join an online forum and answer questions. Create a Go2s group to share industry insights or champion the local business community. Post on a regular schedule. This is a long-game strategy that builds followers over time, but it offers the pro of being something that you can do 24/7 from the comfort of your home or office.
Whatever networking type(s) best suit your business and personality, proceed with this guiding principle: “you need to give to get.” Whether it’s your time, knowledge, service, or a sample of your product, the best way to start making connections is by offering something. The path forward lies in asking, “how can I help?”
Further reading: Networking Like a Pro by Ivan Misner and Brian Hilliard, Entrepreneur Press, 2nd Edition.