On one of the forums I participate a member was asking how to market their VA business and get work. I joined in the conversation and highlighted the importance of networking. My response is below.
Networking is a key to developing business and a big part of it. I believe you should be networking both online and offline. I started with offline networking in the early days of my business because there was no Internet then but online networking today is just as important – you need a mixture of both.
Check to see what business groups meet locally to where you live and go and attend some of their meetings and meet other business owners. As you get to know them (it takes time and won’t happen instantly) you’ll get to know of their needs and they’ll get to know how you can assist them. Same with online networks. If you have some idea of who your target market is then search yahoogroups for networks that relate to that group of people. But if you don’t have a target market, then start with your own interests. For example I joined a writers forum because I love to write. I ended up supporting authors with research and document formatting because they needed help. Locally I joined a speakers groups because I wanted to learn more about public speaking and today, I and my team in Australia, support many professional speakers – just through that one network. I didn’t know that was going to happen when I went to my first meeting.
For the most part the networking I do costs me time and very little money but it does depend on the groups you go along to. I was a member of BNI (Business Network International – www.bni.com) for 5 years and that did cost money but I did recoup my costs as well and today still service people I met and still have access to all the resources I met (Accountant, travel agent, printer, etc).
There are some excellent books out there that will assist you such as “Masters of Networking”, “Seven Second Marketing”, “Networking Magic” and so on – many of these will give you great hints and tips in how to market yourself and your business and connect with others. I believe that networking is an important element of your marketing and through continued connections with others you’ll find ways of promoting your business that works for you and is succinct in getting the message across.
Hope this helps.