It’s easy to hide behind a computer screen and rely on a website or social media to promote your online business. But, when you’re looking to expand, that’s not enough. Lately, I’ve been working to networking offline more often. I keep business cards handy at all times, attend industry conferences and chat about my most recent projects with friends. This word-of-mouth marketing is slowly funneling back to the web and growing my social media audiences and email list subscribers. In turn, my online presence is elevated, making me more desirable to my digital marketing clients.
Talking up My Business
Nearly every time you meet someone new, the inevitable, “So, what do you do?” question pops up. Turn that ubiquitous moment into an opportunity to succinctly explain how you’ve turned your passion into a career (or developing career).
Just the other weekend, I attended a planning meeting for a local festival. When meeting the head coordinator, I explained what I do for a living and he asked me to present some marketing pointers. I ended up handing out business cards to attendees to check out my website, which grew my virtual audience and provided an outlet for them reach out when they need my professional services.
Going to Business Conferences
I can’t stress how incredible it is to meet your online clients and co-workers in person. Attend an industry-focused conference within the year and watch your colleague and client base grow. In-person connections by networking offline can lead to referrals, more work and long-lasting friendships that build the foundation for your career.
A few years ago I flew to Las Vegas for a media conference. I made it a point to meet and exchange business cards with every single person I sat next to at seminars and mixers. Several of those interactions have turned into supportive relationships incredibly valuable as an entrepreneur, guest blogging opportunities and regular social media interactions. Even Forbes agrees that human contact is essential in a growing business, as word-of-mouth is considered the most valuable marketing tool.
Joining Local Entrepreneur Groups
Take a moment and look up your local Chamber of Commerce or community government. Ask if there are any small business startup groups or organizations that you could join to learn more about growing your business. You might meet a mentor, other entrepreneurs or potential clients simply by getting involved and networking offline.
A local college in my community has a free resource room and retired business professionals on hand as part of the SCORE Association to help new small business owners learn how to plan, launch and grow a small business. When I visit, I am always thankful for the opportunity to not only meet the volunteers, but also young business owners. It’s comforting to feel less alone when you are a staff of one in your freelancing world.
Talking about yourself and your entrepreneurial dream can seem a little intimidating if you’re not used to doing all of your promotion behind the comfort of a computer screen. But, once someone breaks the ice by asking about your job, make those next few sentences count. Size up the person and decide if they could benefit from your products or services. Could you partner with them to create something new? Are they a customer, supportive friend or your next social media follower? Or are they the inspirational guide you need to help you through the business-building process? Exchange business cards and see what happens!