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Build a relationship. Build your business.

Doing business is about understanding people – their frustrations wants and needs – and how to satisfy them. That’s why networking, both online and offline, is so important to your success. Here are 5 proven tips to help you connect with your customers, build stronger relationships and grow your business.

1. Use Social Media.

Nearly every discussion about networking in the modern world focuses first on social media, and with good reason: It can be difficult to run a small business without an established internet presence.

Your website should be clean and easy to navigate, and your Facebook and Twitter profiles should be updated regularly and give clear contact information.

It’s also a good idea to explore other social media channels particularly relevant to your business. For instance, if you have a jewelry boutique, you’ll want to set up a Pinterest account to display all your products. If you are a visual artist or designer, put your work on Instagram for the world to see and share.

2. Work On Your Pitch.

Also referred to as the 30 or 60-second pitch, you should be able to quickly and clearly explain what makes your business unique and why someone should choose you instead of your competitors. This is especially important when out and about – always have your pitch ready when attending networking events and trade shows.

3. Attend Networking Events.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll meet the people you need to run your business from the comfort of your home office chair. Breakfasts, luncheons, trade shows, conferences, seminars, craft fairs and farmers’ markets are just a few events where you can get your name out there.

Even if you don’t yet have the cash to set up a booth at these events, it’s a good idea to bring some business cards and mingle with the crowd.

4. Go Local.

As a small business owner, every time you interact with someone is a chance to network. Have your elevator pitch and some business cards on hand when you go out to run errands, get something to eat, or attend a sporting event…you never know when you might meet a potential customer!

5. Get Involved.

Even if you don’t have a storefront or do most of your business online, you can still get involved with the local communityand strengthen your business’ reputation.

Think about attending or local events or helping out with an area nonprofit or fundraiser. Being active in your community will put your business in a positive light.

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