Small and medium sized businesses that offer services to the local community generally need to be part of a strong business network
far more than companies who do their business nationally or internationally. This is because local businesses exist in a small ecosystem where the lines between customers, suppliers, partner businesses and other associations are often blurred. A local baker may supply a local restaurant and also eat there. A local hairdresser who gets great service from a local mechanic may recommend them to all of her clients. Word of mouth and reputation are vital, and whatever service your business provides, from plumbing to web design to accountancy, a good number of your customers will be connected to each other in some way.
So then, it is clear that building good relationships is very important, but how do you win those first clients and start the ball rolling? How do you spread word of your new business throughout the local social and business community?
One of the easiest ways is by networking with businesses who are already in your network because you had to seek them out – your own suppliers.
Look at Your Suppliers
Your suppliers and service providers are probably made up of a mixture of other local businesses, and national ones. For example, if you are a welding business, you might get your specialist equipment from fosterindustrial.co.uk
and your phone and internet from one of the major companies, but most other things, like printing for any promotional copy you do, your accounts, and cleaning for your premises, will be done by other local businesses.
You can't really get much out of your big brand suppliers in terms of networking, but niche national suppliers can be useful because if you have a good relationship with them you could have things like testimonials on their website that help get your business name known, and of course can get pricing benefits from being a regular customer. However, it is your local suppliers who are the most important to forge strong relationships with, as they exist in the same business ecosystem as you and can become customers, or recommend you to the other people they supply to.
You Have Suppliers Outside Your Business, Too!
Your business exists locally, but you also have people you go to for products and services outside of your business who could be considered in the same way. You probably have a hairdresser, who is part of a local business, perhaps frequent local pubs and restaurants, get your car serviced, use a taxi firm, and so on. Rather than seeing these as people you go to occasionally and don't have any reason to get to know, seeing them as people who are part of the same business network as you and working to build friendships and offer mutual recommendations
can help strengthen both of your businesses.
Suppliers are part of your audience, and are a part you are introduced to early on, before you even meet your first new customer. So make the most of the opportunity they present to become a good part of the local business network!