Yes! Business networking is essential—especially for franchise owners
Business networking is sort of a given in the sales and the business world. It’s a great way to make new contacts and to partake in the social side of business. For franchise owners, business networking can positively impact the bottom line and build long-lasting relationships that ultimately help the business grow. Luckily, there are many easy business networking solutions that are inexpensive (or free!) and effective.
If you own a home-based franchise or own a franchise that is not in a prime retail location, business networking is a must. Franchise business owners have a great opportunity to network right where they live and work. Ideally, franchise business owners function as pillars of their communities–running local charity events and sponsoring school sports.
I know from experience that many folks are not comfortable with networking, don’t think they have the time or don’t even know where to start. Maybe it seems like too much trouble, or you are too tired, too this, too that. Remember, it’s too critically important to miss. But guess what? It’s too easy not to do. It’s not hard. You just have to get out there and do it.
Networking conversation starters to avoid
Spending time at local networking events is the first step, but you want to make it count. Think about what you might say before you go, and avoid dead-end conversations like these:
YOU: Hey, how are you?
BOB: Hi. Fine thanks, how are you?
YOU: Fine. Thanks.
Conversation is over. It’s the equivalent of social noise. Nothing happens. Absolutely nothing. It might be a good way to communicate when you are in a rush at the grocery store, but It’s not effective or good for real business networking.
Business conversation icebreakers
Instead of just winging it, think about what people might want to talk about regarding their business and consider questions you would want to be asked. You can start out with specific business icebreaker questions like these:
- How did you happen to come to this event?
- Tell me about your business.
- So, what’s your story?
But remember, you are dealing with humans, not robots. Networking is about more than selling yourself or your business. In order to build long-lasting business relationships, you really have to take the time to get to know people.
Try more relatable topics
Approach people in a relatable way. Here are some examples. They can be funny, flattering or insightful.
- Flattering: That’s a great…(suit, handbag, watch etc…)
- Relatable to the event: Have you tried the….(sushi rolls, bruschetta, etc…. )
- Newsworthy: Do you hear about the…(game last night, celebrity gossip, news event, etc….)
True, some folks are born networkers, but can an introvert learn how to network? In my opinion, yes, but you need to want to.
Local business networking solutions
Probably the most important part of local networking is getting out and doing it. Here’s a simple list of where to start locally…and of course, it is just the START. There are mountains of ways to network.
- Local Chamber of Commerce: 99% of the Chambers would welcome you into their meetings – not only as a member…but even as a speaker. There are dozens of Chambers in each city. Nearly every community has a Chamber. They need you!!! You can work them all, not just the one in your neighborhood.
- Churches, temples, and most religious housing: They too, count on members. And the social events at religious venues are a nesting ground for networking.
- Schools: Private and public, including K – 8 . High school and college. Yes, talk with students of any age. They have parents who are in the business world…and parents who need your product or service. Bring samples. Share stories. Generate interest. Kids can be great advocates for local businesses. Even if you think your business is over their heads or boring for their age, find a way to make it sink in. No one is too old or too young to help spread the word about your business.
- Neighbors: Wow. Who would think the family next door might need exactly what you offer or know someone who does? Spring, Summer and Fall are all GREAT times to have ‘circle events’ on the street or cul de sac. Know thy neighbor.
- Noncompetitive friendly businesses: Team up with local business owners to host mixers, or make presentations together at networking events if it makes sense.
- YMCA – YWCA: They were a lifeline in my youth. It’s an organization that doesn’t get as much attention as it should. They have health clubs, pools, plus classes and more to help you network.
- Libraries: Yes, you need to be quiet and there’s not much drinking, but libraries host events that lots of folks attend, and offer a great way to meet and network. They’re opening up now after COVID.
- Rotary: Joining your local Rotary Club is a feel-good way to network. Rotary brings people together by doing good. What could be a better way to meet someone than by having a shared sense of purpose?
Networking opportunities are everywhere
Networking and gaining new contacts at every turn is an art, not a science. Now that we’re starting to travel again, there are more opportunities. How about the person sitting next to you on the flight? What about your Uber driver? Hundreds of sales and friendships (and love affairs) have started by chance.
I made one of the largest sales ever when I received a WRONG number phone call on a Saturday morning. It was a call for AAA; the caller’s battery failed. After a few fun questions, I turned it into a conversation that eventually turned into BUSINESS. Do not discount any of the odd opportunities that come into our lives.
Please don’t POO POO any invitations to network. Even if it seems small. It’s part of owning a local business. You never know where the next sale will come from. Remember the statement by the hockey great, Wayne Gretzky. He said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”