top of page

Utilizing Your Local Community to Grow Your Small Business Network

Updated: May 9

A group of business owners around a desk discussing important matters. There are illustrative elements on this real life image such as a light bulb, rings, and shine

Small businesses can find competing with medium and large-sized companies challenging when they're new. After all, the more prominent companies often have marketing budgets that far outdo what smaller-scale businesses can afford in many ways.

For this reason, networking for a small business is essential for their survival. By starting small, you can utilize the help of your local community to grow your small business network and sustainability. The Small Business Administration (SBA) reports that 85% of small businesses get customers through word-of-mouth marketing. As a small business owner, knowing with whom and where to expand your network must be strategic.

It’s important to connect with individuals and local businesses to build genuine relationships.

Fellow business owners and local businesses can be instrumental in expanding your reach, customer acquisition, marketability, brand equity, reputation, and resources.

These local businesses and individuals may even become strategic partners and collaborators for whom you can lean on to strengthen your community reach, and spread awareness about your projects and initiatives.

Let’s explore the impact having a strong network can have on your small business!

Understanding Small Business Networking

Networking is a broad term and means different things to different people. Networking isn’t just about attending an industry event and talking to as many people in the room to get your name and business on their radar.

Networking is about building meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships. Be genuine and authentic in your outreach. Know people by name, their businesses, strengths, weaknesses, successes, and opportunities. However, be careful not to come off transactional.

Everything is not about making a sale. It’s about playing the long game. You are your business's brand ambassador. Your approach, professionalism, demeanor, candor, humor, wit, intellect etc. will impact the perception of your business because you are the face of it. Note, the way you make people feel will become your business's brand perception also.

Word-of-mouth (WOM) is still one of the best ways to increase your brand awareness and sales. Thrive My Way reports that 61% of people have recommended a local business to someone they know by word-of-mouth.

Below are some of the benefits of networking in your local community:

  • Increased Visibility: Through networking, small businesses can increase their visibility within the local community by attending events, participating in trade shows, and engaging in community organizations. This allows business owners to showcase their products, services and grow your audience.

  • Referral Opportunities: Networking often leads to referrals, which can be a significant source of new business for small enterprises. When businesses build strong relationships with other entrepreneurs, they are more likely to receive referrals from them.

  • Access to Resources: Local networking provides small businesses with access to a wide range of resources they may not have on their own. These resources could include collaborative events, access to resources, funding opportunities, and more.

  • Credibility and Trustworthiness: Being an active participant in the local business community helps build credibility and trustworthiness for a small business. The more engaged and involved that business is within the community, the more credibility, trust and goodwill it can build.

Building a Strong Small Business Network

Building a robust network is essential for small business success. By connecting with like-minded individuals, other small business owners, and entrepreneurs in your local community, you can foster long-term partnerships that promote growth.

A list of local networking opportunieis including chamber of commerce events, community charity events, workshops, conferences, and more

Define your networking goals

Being clear about what you intend to achieve at each networking event is more than just a good practice – it's a strategy that ensures your time and effort are directed toward tangible goals. Before you walk into any event, it's crucial to define what success looks like for you. Are you looking to meet potential clients, find collaborators for a specific project, or simply gain insight into the latest industry trends?

Your goals also guide how you present yourself and your business. If you’re looking to attract a particular type of client, your conversation, business cards, and even your attire may reflect that intention. You'll tailor your pitch to resonate with those specific clients, ensuring that your message hits the mark.

Finally, clear goals allow for better post-event evaluation. By reflecting on whether you met your objectives, you can assess what worked and what didn’t, and refine your approach for future networking opportunities. You can celebrate your successes and learn from any misses, continuously improving your networking skills.

Identify Local Networking Opportunities

As we’ve already mentioned, focusing on your local community and neighboring regions is a great way to build your small business network. This can be especially true if you have a brick-and mortar location. If your small business operates online, networking within your local region is still good practice until you can expand to other regions, even globally. You never know how far and wide a connection can go.

Attending events such as business mixers, meetups, workshops, pop-up-shops, seminars, trade shows etc. is a great way to initiate, make and strengthen those connections and relationships.

The best thing about these types of events are the opportunities they present for making connections among like-minded individuals, fellow small business owners, and entrepreneurs. Forging meaningful business relationships can foster long-term partnerships.

Make sure to research local and relevant events where you can shine a spotlight on your business and connect with the right individuals.

Research Local Business Events and Associations

Being strategic about expanding your small business network will require research. Start by finding the right local events that you can attend to give a return on your networking investment. Again, this is about building authentic business relationships, garnering strategic partners, collaborators, and growing brand awareness.

By conducting online research, you can tap into key term phrases by location, interests, business sectors, and industries etc. Your local Chamber of Commerce, city/state business directory, and associations are great places to start!

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Creating social media pages and accounts are free. It’s also a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and join business-affiliated groups and pages to build community within your sector to further reach your ideal target market.

Platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn allow for joining super niche groups and communities that are already highly tailored to your audience demographic and industry. Use them.

Connect with local businesses

Starting small and locally is a great way to test the waters and get your feet wet. Small business owners like yourself, are likely to be just as eager and opportunistic in making the right connections and growing their businesses over time. Build and grow with these businesses. You’ll likely have long-term buy-in and support. These kinds of connections can not only garner long-term advocates but people willing to refer customers, potential partners, and investors.

Nurture them.

Overcoming Networking Challenges

Getting out there and networking for your small business takes courage. We understand that talking to strangers and customers can create feelings of anxiety. To minimize such feelings, we encourage you to:

  • Attend smaller networking events to start and ease into the process gradually.

  • Set goals in increments so that they feel more attainable as you network and become more comfortable in your networking abilities.

    • For eg: Start by speaking to 2 individuals and hand out your business cards to 8 people. Soon, those 2 individuals will become the 8.

  • Focus on listening more to others as they speak and not just on what you want to say. This can alleviate self-consciousness if you listen to understand and not simply to respond. Not only will you better retain information and what you’ve learned, it can make your interactions much more pleasant when you take a keen interest in their story, business, and interests.

  • Recognize the value you bring and the benefits of connecting with other professionals and business owners. When you understand their needs and what value you can offer to address those needs the exchange becomes more meaningful and memorable. This is why listening is important.

Having some form of performance anxiety is common. For this reason, we suggest you take a look at the 5 tips we recommend, to support business owners like yourself, in overcoming imposter syndrome.

How to write a quick pitch

We also recommend that you write a pitch to help combat imposter syndrome and navigate the complexities of networking. Writing a pitch is relatively easy. It’s a great way to organize your thoughts and prioritize the most important points you want to make in networking for your business.

Set a goal for what you want to accomplish and think about what you want people to walk away with after an encounter with you. That is what you should focus on in writing your pitch. Make it clear, concise, and conversational.

A guide on how to write a quick pitch

Following up and nurturing relationships

Building relationships doesn't end after the initial networking event. Following up is essential to nurture them so you can turn them into valuable partnerships.

When you build strategic relationships, there’s no telling what doors will open from those connections. You may even benefit from co-branding opportunities.

Through co-branding partnerships, you can benefit from increasing your brand’s visibility, reaching new customers, gaining market share, and receiving on-going support.

Here are some tips for following up and maintaining relationships:

  1. Follow up: Following up within a day or two after the initial meeting to express gratitude and keep the conversation fresh.

  2. Personalize your messages: Customize your follow-up message to reference specific points from your previous conversation.

  3. Offer value in your relationship: Provide something of value in your follow-up, such as relevant resources, articles, or an invitation to an industry event.

  4. Stay consistent: Keep in touch with your network regularly, whether through emails, phone calls, or in-person meetups.

  5. Remember events: Acknowledge birthdays, work anniversaries, or important milestones of your contacts to show you care about them.

Your Local Networking Action Plan

Before you start to network and build your roller deck with potential partners and resources, you should come up with an action plan. Failing to plan is failing to succeed. Here are 10 things to consider as you find the right opportunities and support to take your small business to the next level.

1. Step One: Clarify your goals and objectives

  • Determine what you want to achieve through networking: finding new clients, forming partnerships, gaining industry insights, or collaboration opportunities.

  • Set specific and measurable goals to guide your networking efforts.

  • Establish a realistic timeline for attending events and engaging with local groups.

2. Step Two: Research local networking opportunities

  • Conduct online searches using relevant keywords related to your industry and location.

  • Explore local business directories, community calendars, and event listings that feature networking opportunities.

  • Look for local business associations, chambers of commerce, industry-specific groups in your area, etc.

3. Step Three: Prepare your pitch

  • Craft a concise and compelling elevator pitch that clearly communicates what your business does and its unique value proposition.

  • Practice delivering your pitch until it feels natural and confident (emphasize how you should feel like it’s a conversation and not a pitch once you are ready to say it)

4. Step Four: Get on social

  • Join local business groups and networking communities on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.

  • Engage in discussions, share valuable insights, and connect with other professionals in your area.

5. Step Five: Attend local networking events

  • Look for upcoming networking events, workshops, seminars, and meetups in your industry or niche.

  • Prioritize events that align with your goals and offer opportunities to meet potential clients or partners.

  • Host your own meetups in your area.

6. Step Six: Engage with your community

  • Participate in community projects, charity events, or clubs that align with your business values.

  • Active involvement in the community can lead to meaningful connections and showcase your commitment to local causes.

7. Step Seven: Be genuine in your efforts

  • Approach networking with a genuine interest in getting to know others and their businesses.

  • Be approachable, listen actively, and ask thoughtful questions during conversations.

8. Step Eight: Exchange information

  • Collect business cards and contact information from the people you meet at networking events.

  • Follow up with a personalized message after the event to reinforce the connection.

9. Step Nine: Follow up and nurture

  • Reach out to new contacts within a day or two to express gratitude and continue the conversation.

  • Offer value by sharing relevant resources or information that aligns with their interests.

10. Step Ten: Join groups

  • Become a member of local chambers of commerce, industry-specific associations, and networking groups.

  • Engage in their activities and attend regular meetings to expand your small business network.

Key Takeaways

We know that scaling your small business can be overwhelming. It’s why we encourage you to focus on your local communities first to build a network for your long-term success and sustainability. Tapping into communities locally can build momentum in reaching larger regions to further grow and brand visibility and awareness.

Networking involves a lot of research, effort, and time so networking efficiently can deliver better return on the investments you make while building those strategic partnerships over time.

According to a survey conducted by HubSpot, 85% of professionals stated that they built stronger, more meaningful relationships through in-person networking and events. Find the right events that align with your goals for your business and be intentional about the connections you make. It will make your networking feel much easier, as you get your feet wet and become masterful in building relationships organically.


bottom of page