Building a Local Following Means Adopting a Networking Mindset
Very few franchises are flush with customers from the moment the doors open. Whether you invest in a brick-and-mortar retail franchise or a home-based service business, local networking is the key to creating a strong presence in your community.
Most franchisors provide advertising and digital marketing to create awareness about your business. Some franchisors offer call centers that can schedule appointments even before your official grand opening. In any of these scenarios, adopting a networking mindset is still your best bet. It’s a great way to put a face behind the business, become a leader in your community and build life-long relationships.
Local networking doesn’t have to be difficult. It simply takes some planning and a concerted effort. Following are six ways to build your local following.
1. Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce
Local networking has been essential in growing my franchise consulting business. I joined my local Chamber of Commerce to connect with other local business owners. I eventually became a membership ambassador. I tell interested prospects that you join the Chamber to celebrate and support other small businesses. My Chamber went above and beyond to help businesses during the pandemic. Often, they will have splinter groups within the chamber just for women, DEI, young professionals, and real estate to name a few. Events will be held at local businesses in your surrounding area. You can choose from an array of times to meet to fit your schedule. Fun fact: the state of New York boasts the oldest Chamber, which goes back to the late 1700’s.
2. Zoom the Day Away
In-person networking became much easier with the advent of video conferencing on platforms like Zoom and Teams. There are local community networking virtual meetings happening across the country each day. As you meet people, you will be invited to so many Zooms that you will get to a point where you only attend the ones that you enjoy.
Being in business can be isolating if you allow it to be so. Do not get comfortable staying by yourself all day long.
3. Grab that Cup of Coffee
There is something to be said about shaking someone’s hand and meeting them in person. Be sure to do this as part of your regular networking efforts. It fulfills two objectives: supporting another local business and getting yourself out there among other businesspeople. Being in business can be isolating if you allow it to be so. Do not get comfortable staying by yourself all day long. Get out of your comfort zone and take time out for much-needed dialogue with others that can support you.
4. Make Lifelong Connections and Friendships Along the Way
My biggest business regret is losing track of various mentors and co-workers I met over the years. It was not easy keeping in touch as it is today. These days, the digital world with platforms like LinkedIn ensures connectivity. You will be surprised at the number of people you will meet who will become more than colleagues. They can offer support, encouragement and friendship. As a bonus, you learn from one another since you have different backgrounds. Foster those relationships and do not take them for granted.
As a local business owner, it is imperative to immerse yourself in your community.
5. Engage in Your Local Community
As a local business owner, it is imperative to immerse yourself in your community. Engage in community service. Set up a tent at local events, and say “yes” to PTA members asking for donations. Even better, be proactive and reach out to them; you will be on their favorites list forevermore. Sponsor a sports team, have your business name on the back of the shirts, and then take the team out for lunch at the end of their season.
6. Adopt a Servant Leader Mindset
Do not go into the networking world asking what you will get from it. Approach it looking to help others. People will see that and naturally want to help you in return. Share, comment and like other people’s posts on LinkedIn. Give Google reviews for establishments you have long enjoyed. Provide testimonials for people who you do work with. Be a mentor or resource for others that may be struggling.
These suggestions cost very little but will have a tremendous impact over time. It takes time, which is very valuable but will benefit you and your business one hundred-fold. Owning a business can be extremely rewarding. Networking with those in the same type of boat will provide great comfort, especially when times get tough.
“My golden rule of networking is simple: Don’t keep score.” —Harvey Mackay