Just because you run an online business, may work from your home, and likely work unconventional hours, doesn't mean that you have to be isolated from other local business owners. Here some ideas to make you feel better connected to the community in which you work.
Join your local chamber of commerce (or attend some of their activities as a non-member): Chamber events often attract hundreds of business people, last on.y a few hours, and are created to foster networking. Attendees are often given lists of other attendees. Don't just file it for later use: the quicker you act, the more likely you are to be remembered from the event.
Volunteer to teach a class or seminar in your areas of expertise. We believe strongly that everyone benefits when they share their strengths. Classes are also a great place to pass out print literature about your company to the attendees.
Do your work in public. Take your computer to the coffee shop or bookstore for a change of scenery. And don't just use their free WIFI and occupy a table for hours: give them a little business, too.
Donate products and services to local fundraisers to help get your company name out. Who doesn't want to help support their neighbors, while gaining a reputation for being generous?
ID five local businesses that complement yours, then make coffee dates with their owners. Even better if you can target someone who's already done what you're trying to accomplish.
Everything is an opportunity to get your company name out. Go to the gym? Wear a t-shirt with your company logo on it. Depending on your business, you may also want to use a vehicle as a "moving billboard". And always have a supply of business cards on hand to give to people you meet.
Join an entrepreneurs network, but only after attending a few times first as a guest. Gauge the feeling in the room. Re the other attendees enthusiastic, positive-thinking and well-connected or do they use the meeting to lament about "woulda/coulda/shouldas"? What past events have they run? Are meetings cancelled last-minute? Is there a revolving door of members? Who are the leaders and do they monopolize the meetings? Be wary of any group who wants your membership fees before welcoming you as a guest.
Hold volunteer positions in local organizations. This will help you stay visible in the community while giving back to groups in which you believe.
If anything looks familiar about this list, you're probably right. This advice is very similar to that which we give businesses who also have bricks and mortar presences. That's because the real differentiator is between marketing-savvy organizations and those which are not, not between online-only businesses and those which also have a physical presence.
What other tips and ideas have helped you, as an online business owner, network locally? Leave us a message below.
- Lynne Sabean