While the Internet has revolutionized some aspects of running a small business by reducing costs and increasing sales through search marketing, some things, like the value of networking, hasn’t changed. Building relationships and developing strategic partnerships is as important now as it was 2,000 years ago when the apostle Peter partnered with the farmer from the Parable of the Sower to create the first Filet-o-Fish sandwich. 😉
Seriously, though, while networking has always been vital part of business, the ‘Net has opened the door to a whole new world of business relationships.
Because e-commerce tends to be impersonal, the value of relationships is often overlooked. The fact is, however, that when you’re first starting out online, you are one of millions of sites that no one has ever heard of. To rise above the pack you need credibility and direct referrals, two things can only come by building relationships. Testimonials, endorsements, and links can make or break a small business.
Who to network with?
The key to business networking is developing mutually beneficial relationships. That means the people you network with need to be able to help your business and you need to be able to help theirs. Look for companies that sell complimentary products or services. Look within affinity groups, networking groups, and industry associations. Look for ways you can serve others.
Where to network online?
The places to network online are almost limitless… Look for blogs and forums within your industry. Search the search engines for companies that sell complimentary products and services. Look for groups in social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and MySpace.
How to network?
The ways to network online are just as numerous. Here are just a few.
- Exchange links (put a link to their site on yours and vise versa).
- Comment on their blog (and vise versa).
- Write a guest articles for their blog (and vise versa)
- Have a presence on forums related to your industry. Answer questions, demonstrate your knowledge, and help others.
- Participate in their affiliate program (and create an affiliate program they can participate in)
- Give special benefits (discounts, free shipping, customization, private phone numbers, or email)
- Email constructive criticism. If you would be more inclined to recommend their product or service if it was tweaked or improved a bit, tell them. And ask for the same constructive criticism in return.
- Write testimonials for the companies whose products and services you use. Ask for testimonials from your clients.
- Keep in touch by becoming “friends” on social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Myspace
- Keep an eye out for future opportunities by subscribing to their newsletter and inviting them to subscribe to yours.
To help you network, we provide many of these opportunities here at OurChurch.Com. You can comment on this blog, write guest blog articles, have a presence in our forums, participate in our partnership program, write a testimonial, and subscribe to our newsletters.
What other ways have you successfully networked to grow your business online?