When you think of brands like Apple, Harley-Davidson and Yankee Candle, it’s hard to believe they were ever small. Yet these garage-based startups made names for themselves by offering products that inspired passionate consumers – and by networking diligently to get their brand name out there.
If your vision is to become a household brand – or simply to become a brand your community loves – there are ways you can network in to jump-start the process. These five tips will show you how:
1. Think Grass Roots First
Yes, you can certainly raise your brand profile by advertising and using social media. However, a loyal brand following begins with face-to-face networking in your own backyard. Are there business associations you can join in your area? Established groups, like Rotary, Kiwanis, and Chamber of Commerce are always an option, but so are industry specific and professional organizations that cater to your business. Search online, and you’re likely to find a variety of resources close to home.
2. Attend Networking Events
It’s impossible to run a business in today’s world without being invited to attend some kind of networking event. While it’s easy to ignore these LinkedIn invitations and email offers, think of them as ‘brand spotlight’ opportunities. Armed with an ‘elevator speech’ that defines your brand and vision (and plenty of business cards) make it your goal to engage as many potential ‘brand ambassadors’ as possible. To make the most of your next networking event, follow these tips.
3. Get Involved With a Local Charity
One of the most effective ways to generate brand awareness on a local level is to get involved with a charity. By sponsoring a 5K run to support the local humane society, for instance, you can do good for the community and raise your business profile. The most difficult part may be choosing a charity that’s right for your business, since options abound. If you’re having difficulty picking, consider a cause that’s close to your heart. Or, think of a charity that aligns well with your business. For example, if you sell shoes, align with a cause that helps injured veterans walk again. If you still can’t decide, Localgiving can help you find one.
4. Create Strategic Business Alliances
Look closely at the business community around you. Are certain companies doing well or making headlines for their successes? Consider how your business might affiliate with these high-profile brands. For instance, if you’re in the janitorial services business, perhaps you can negotiate service contracts with these winning establishments. Like the kid who befriends the most popular student in high school, your brand will enjoy an instant boost in popularity.
5. Run for Office
If you’re politically inclined, you might consider running for a local government position. Not only will it allow you to have an impact on public policy, it will also put you – and your business – in the local spotlight. Yes, being a public servant will demand more of your time, but if you have the ambition and wherewithal to pursue it, it could be an option worth considering. And networking doesn’t get more serious than when you run for office.
Your business and brand has the potential to be the next Amazon. But only if you network smart, dream big, and build from the ground up.