Payset prespective
April 28, 2024

Networking Tips for Small Business Owners

If you are a small business owner, you should pursue networking as a core goal. This involves reaching out to potential partners, industry members, and customers. In this article, we’ll explain the best ways to network.

Key Takeaways:

  • Networking involves finding and reaching out to new contacts
  • This may include partners, industry members, or customers
  • Attending and hosting industry events is one networking strategy
  • Maintaining a social media and online presence is another strategy
  • Be sure to prepare for and follow up on any networking encounter

Understanding Networking Goals

In order to network, you need to set realistic and specific objectives. If you operate a small business, you can’t expect to attract the same level of attention as major companies.

Instead, you should focus on achievable goals. Reach out to new partners, industry members, and potential customers on a regular basis and according to a structured plan. 

You might set goals to perform a certain number of networking tasks. For example:

  • Reach out to at least 10 new people per day 
  • Pitch a certain number of partnerships per day
  • Follow up on at least 20 leads per day
  • Spend at least two hours per day on social media networking
  • Attend at least five conferences or events this year
  • Send a certain number of employees to conferences
  • Sponsor or host at least one event per year

The degree to which you pursue each goal should be relative to the size of your organization, as small businesses have less time and fewer employees to allocate to each goal. 

However, every company should take a broadly similar approach. In other words, you need to set aside time, money, and staff for each goal and set clear expectations for your firm.

Networking is key to achieving business milestones. After you start networking, you should see your business become consistently profitable. You should also notice repeat customers and earn a reputation in your industry. If you don’t see success, rethink your marketing strategy.

Preparing for Networking Events

There are several types of networking events that you can take part in. You can attend conferences and trade shows, join local industry groups, or even sponsor and host an event.

It’s important to prepare for every event you attend. You should research events and attendees in advance in order to engage in a more meaningful way. Full knowledge of each event will allow you to take part as more than a passive audience member.

You should also arrange ways to interact with anyone you meet. Be sure to craft an engaging elevator pitch for potential partners and clients. 

You should also bring plenty of material to share, such as business cards and brochures. If possible, bring samples and other “freebies.” If you only offer online products and services, consider giving away free trial codes or distributing free access in another way.

Making the Most of Networking Opportunities

You should aim to make the most of every networking encounter. 

You can do this in any way you see fit: there is no single correct way to interact with people, and the best way to make a connection depends on local customs and your individual personality. 

However, there are a few ways in which you can make the most of each meeting:

  • If an meeting is scheduled, arrive early or on time
  • During elevator pitches, be concise and to the point
  • Be knowledgeable about companies and their key members 
  • During repeat meetings, ask for help and reciprocate favours 
  • Be an active listener (eg. nod and make eye contact)
  • Have a way to promote your brand and company
  • Be yourself while adhering to traditional etiquette
  • Follow up on conversations whenever possible

The Art of Conversation

Meeting with networking contacts involves the art of conversation. This means listening and asking questions and showing interest in others. You can make the most of a conversation by discussing topics as thoroughly as possible during a first encounter. 

You can also pick up the connection again at a later date. Continuing a conversation beyond an initial meeting is an excellent way to build a lasting relationship.

Local Networking and Community Involvement

You should become involved in your community by participating in various local groups. 

Be sure to take part in community events and volunteer work. This will help you demonstrate your business’ capabilities, build your reputation, and meet new people in the community.

You can attend local events operated by others in your industry. Or, if you have the time and resources needed to do so, you can sponsor your own event. Be sure that your reputation is strong enough that any event that you organize will attract significant attendance.

Joining a Chamber of Commerce

Another form of community networking involves joining a chamber of commerce

This is a type of business network that brings together companies and individuals. Members work together to advance shared goals — either at a local or industry level. 

In some situations, membership with a chamber of commerce is mandatory. However, chambers of commerce that accept voluntary members provide a great way for small businesses and business owners to expand their engagement with the community.

Leveraging Online Networking Platforms

Although real world engagement is important, your company should be active online. This involves social networking and building a traditional web presence. 

Social Networking

Every small business should maintain a profile on LinkedIn, the best known business networking site. Individual employees can also create their own LinkedIn pages.

Once you have a LinkedIn account, you can connect with people at other companies, post information about your own business, and learn about events.

You can additionally create profiles on mainstream social media sites like Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube. These sites can help you communicate and engage with the public in ways that business-oriented sites like LinkedIn might not allow.

Choosing to engage on specific social networks can help you appeal to niche audiences.

Traditional Web Presence

It’s also important to communicate through traditional online means. Be sure to maintain a website and converse with potential contacts via email. 

You might also try to set up content opportunities — for example, by exchanging guest blog posts with a partner or by publishing a strategic partnership announcement.

Regardless of your chosen strategy, be sure to engage with industry groups, professionals, and potential customers alike by creating engaging online content.

Building and Maintaining Professional Relationships

You should make the most of each networking encounter at any given time. However, it’s also important to follow up on each meeting after it occurs.

Most people currently follow up on meetings via email. However, if you are more familiar with a contact, you might choose to contact them by phone or another method.

Regardless of how you reach out for a follow up, you should send a detailed message. Personalize the content of your message, address your contact by name, touch on the topics that you discussed, and thank your contact for their time. 

Making a Request

Sometimes, you might want to make a request from a new contact or offer them your own services. This isn’t always the case, though. 

First time follow ups rarely lead to extensive partnerships between companies, and you may feel uncomfortable demanding too much right away.

In other words, follow ups are about nurturing relationships after an initial meeting. Some connections may never evolve into business relationships, but your contacts might stay in touch and provide you with other opportunities or connections elsewhere.

To set yourself apart, you can offer something of use, such as an interesting podcast or article, in an unimposing way. This will help your contact remember you in the future.

Networking Etiquette and Best Practices

If you’re attending a networking event, you should consider various “do’s” and “don’ts.”


  • Research and familiarize yourself with contacts
  • Listen actively and attentively
  • Prepare an elevator pitch 
  • Bring promotional items to distribute
  • Approach new people
  • Mention general topics of interest, within reason
  • Follow up on every meeting
  • Be as positive as possible
  • Follow a dress code, if there is one


  • Go to an event unprepared
  • Make assumptions about other companies
  • Improvise your pitch entirely on the spot
  • Wait for other people to approach you
  • Abandon or neglect new connections 
  • Be inappropriate or overly informal 
  • Be negative or overly critical

Measuring the Success of Your Networking Efforts

You can track the success of your networking efforts in various ways.

The most direct method involves keeping track of referrals and opportunities from networking. You might also measure the number of people that you’ve engaged with and the amount of time that you’ve spent on networking for the sake of comparison. These measurements will tell you how successful your networking efforts are in their own right.

However, simply measuring networking results will not tell you whether your efforts are benefiting your company in an operational and financial sense.

For that reason, you should evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of your networking activities. This involves finding out whether networking has improved your revenues, profits, sales numbers, or other numbers related to finance and operations.


Small business owners should network in a variety of ways. This includes participating in real-world events and industry groups and maintaining an online presence. 

There are various strategies that you can use to ensure that your networking efforts are successful, but it’s most important to engage with contacts thoroughly and follow up. You should also monitor whether your networking efforts are benefiting your business.

Be sure to continuously invest time, money, and employee efforts into networking. Doing so will ensure that you make the most of your efforts.

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