As a business owner, fostering positive relationships within your local community will help you build a strong business network.
This network represents a wealth of opportunity for your brand; plus, it’s an ongoing resource that can be nurtured and grown.
Building a beneficial network is a strategy that can be tailored to suit virtually any industry and is used by companies all over the world on a global scale using the latest technology, but let’s start small and focus on growing a local business network.
Why is a local network important for small to medium businesses?
Most smaller businesses simply don’t have the resources to invest heavily in promoting their brand. Of course, there are ways to build a brand that don’t involve huge budgets, but it can be difficult going toe-to-toe with a competitor who has deeper pockets.
As small businesses (particularly service based operators) tend to have a local/regional focus, the way they interact in the local ecosystem has a huge impact on their success.
A strong brand identity that is bolstered by positive word of mouth will lead to more business activity and increased revenue. Referrals from within your network hold a lot of weight and are great way to grow your customer base.
Working with other stakeholders in the local business community can offer access to things like shared workspaces, meeting rooms and co-owned assets like photocopiers or video equipment.
Aside from clients or customers, who else should be in a local business’ network?
Go back to basics, dust off your business plan and reacquaint yourself with the strategy that got you off the ground.
Try this simple exercise and see what opportunities you can uncover:
- Break your core services and operations down into chunks, and list all external stakeholders that are involved in each component.
- Determine the nature of these relationships and what mutual benefits exist
- Rank them in order of the most promising opportunities
- Gather your team and brainstorm ways to improve relationships with these opportunities
At Mark Lawler Architects, we consider a respectful relationship with our local Councils, including Newcastle, Port Stephens and Lake Macquarie is important, in order to assist DAs and other submissions. Significant time and effort can be saved through clear, concise communication with Council to address any potential issues.
Other industry-related disciplines such as Landscape Architects, Engineers, Surveyors, Town Planners are also important as we work closely with them during the design development phase. Their expertise is valuable in enabling our designs to be fully compliant, functional and aesthetically pleasing.
How can local businesses make an impact and start building their network?
Do you what you do best! Ultimately, the products and services you offer are your strongest form of advertising. As architects, our end results are always assessed visually, so we use social media channels, our website and local publications to show off all of our hard work and engage with our network.
Being a successful thought leader and expert in your field is also a great way to build your network. You can share your knowledge among the community and encourage innovation by:
- Guest speaking at industry or community events
- Maintaining a high quality online blog or contribute to professional groups on LinkedIn or Medium
- Offering sponsorships, mentoring programs, internships or scholarships if possible
As you continue to build your business, remember that relationships you build within your network should be mutually beneficial and are not just a stepping stone to get ahead.