February 14, 2017
Even as the digital age continues to mature and evolve, many trade-focused local businesses continue to uncover business opportunities through networking. From plumbers and electricians to contractors and more, a lot of the business development is still done through face-to-face interactions. Trust is vital within the trades. Lucky for you, there are numerous outlets for you to network your business in-person. Utilize any combination, or even better all, of these five networking avenues to grow your business!
Current customers are often overlooked for networking and thus under-utilized to help grow your business. Customers can be the best advocates for your business if you leave them satisfied with the service or product you provided. The power of word-of-mouth, especially in smaller communities, is invaluable to your business. Always ask happy customers to refer or recommend your business to their friends and family and leave behind your contact information (several business cards) so they can easily pass it along. To go the extra mile, offer up discounts to those who referred a friend or family member that converted into a new customer.
Chamber of Commerce
Chances are, the city or town your business is located in has a local Chamber of Commerce. Becoming a member of your local chamber can create many benefits for your business. Most importantly, it provides you the ability to network at the frequent events for chamber members. The chamber represents a wide mix of potential commercial customers for your business, from banking to healthcare to manufacturing and more. Even if your business focuses on residential customers, everyone in attendance is also a local resident. Join your local chamber and attend as many “Business Before Hours” or “Business After Hours” events as possible!
Find your local chamber (https://www.chamberofcommerce.com/chambers)
Service clubs have been operating throughout communities across North America for over a century. Most of the larger service clubs (Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis) focus their efforts on improving the community in which they operate by donating time and funds. Many reputable businesses and decision-makers are actively involved with service clubs. If the majority of your business comes from commercial customers, you need to be involved in a service club. The monthly service club meetings provide you with the perfect opportunity to connect face-to-face with business prospects and gets your business involved in local philanthropy.
Rotary Club (https://www.rotary.org/)
Lions Club (http://www.lionsclubs.org/EN/index.php)
Kiwannis Club (http://www.kiwanis.org/)
Friends and Family
Friends and family, the ones closest to you, can be a big networking opportunity for your business. In many cases, friends and family are some of the first customers of new trade-focused businesses. Since your friends and family have already established trust with you as an individual, turning them into customers when they are in need of your products or services should be easier compared to cold business prospects. Your friends and family that become customers should become your most faithful and vocal advocates. Get in the habit of regularly asking friends and family to recommend your business to increase your networking impact.
The number of associations for skilled trades are virtually endless. Regardless if you are a contractor, plumber, electrician, or farmer, there are reputable trade associations for you. Many of which establish local chapters within communities so association members can come together and discuss topics and issues, receive continuous education, and network. While you may think the fellow local association members would be considered your competitors, there may be opportunities for partnerships, subcontracting, or new business ventures between your business and other association members. Take a look at the list of some of the larger national trade associations below as these may have local chapters established in your backyard.
Agriculture – American Farm Bureau (http://www.fb.org/)
Electrical – National Electrical Contractors Association (https://www.necanet.org/)
HVAC/Plumbing – Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors Association (http://www.phccweb.org) and American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and
Air-Conditioning Engineers (https://www.ashrae.org/)
Landscaping – National Association of Landscape Professionals (https://www.landscapeprofessionals.org/)