Written by the Franchise Matchmakers Team
You started a business either on your own or through a franchise, and being your own boss is the greatest feeling in the world. Now the big question arises…how do you drive people through your doors?
Buying and owning a franchise usually includes access to marketing and advertising. But networking can add an important layer to your marketing efforts.
While paid marketing can drive customers, the power of building personal relationships with other professionals in your area (or even across the country!) can help with hiring and finding good employees. Plus networking can help make it “less lonely at the top,” be a good source of socializing with other business owners and help pool resources and share ideas about what’s working and what’s not.
Here are some advantages you can reap by creating a close network of like-minded professionals:
- A resource for hiring
- A group of people you can bounce ideas, or issues, off.
- Professionals you can confidently refer people to.
- A source of referrals as potential clients.
- A support group when things are not going well.
- A group of fans to celebrate victories with!
Sounds amazing, right? Right! However, this COVID climate is still offering some stumbling blocks for effective networking. But do not fret…here are some tips that can navigate you through networking during these unique times.
Virtual Networking Tips
Mine Old Sources
You may already have the beginnings of a great network. Go through your collection of business cards, old emails, and notes from previous meetings and events. Rediscover those people that you felt a special connection to. Send them a heartfelt message letting them know you would like to reconnect. Invite them to a phone chat or Zoom call and let them know you respect their time by limiting the call to 10 minutes. And when you do reconnect, be interested in them. Ask them how they and their business is doing. Care about them, and they will care about you.
Look through your LinkedIn connections, and find the people that post and make comments that you admire. These could be people that are on the same page as you are and would enjoy being in your network. Send a message introducing yourself (not selling yourself) and let them know you enjoy what they post, and you would like to discuss having them join a network.
Are you a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, or local Business Association? If not, consider doing so. There could be dozens, or maybe even hundreds, of potential networking partners that are also members. Go to the organizations website and look through the business directory. You may be surprised at the number of connections that are waiting for you to connect with them!
Create Video Networking Events
Using Zoom or other video tools will be your best bet for connecting with your network while people are still staying home during the COVID outbreak. There are some definite do’s and don’ts while using this form of connection, though.
Video Meeting Do’s
- Send out meeting invites well in advance so people can fit them in their schedules.
- Meeting size should be small. 6-10 people.
- Keep meetings moving along in a timely matter. Respect everyone’s time.
- Have a set agenda and follow it!
- Make sure the lighting is good, and your camera and mic are excellent.
- Be in a private environment. Kids screaming and dogs barking can but funny but are not the marks of a professional meeting.
- Consider allowing the hosting of each meeting to rotate.
- Remind everyone that the goal is to help each other improve their business. Remind them to keep everyone in the group on their referral list.
- Follow up each meeting with a “Thank You” email and let them know you are looking forward to the next meeting.
Video Meeting Don’ts
- Do not talk through the entire meeting. Give all a chance to contribute to the event.
- Do not use silly virtual backgrounds that are offered on the streaming services.
- Do not allow long moments of silence. It is awkward!
These are just a few tips. What can you add to the list?
As you continue to tread through business ownership while the nation deals with the pandemic, remember that the personal touch is still the best way to do business. If other owners and professionals know that you care about them and their business, they will care deeply about yours.
Franchise Matchmakers is a team of franchising professionals based in Denver, Colorado, but serving the entire United States. We are dedicated to helping people explore business ownership as a career path.