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A small business blog featuring tips to help entrepreneurs succeed in the small business world. Topics include family business, human resources, marketing, money, networking, operations, ownership, startup, taxes and technology.
Buddy Networking: A Clever Way to Expand Your Network
Ever heard of “buddy networking?” Basically, it is buddying-up with another business that complements your own and working together to expand both of your networks. Some examples of great buddy businesses would be: a maid service and a lawn service; a photographer and a wedding coordinator; or an accountant and an attorney.
First, determine all of the types of businesses in your area that would complement your own by attracting your ideal clientele. Then, prioritize those businesses and obtain contact information for the manager or owner. Finally, arrange a meeting (in person is best) with the owner to discuss how your businesses could benefit each other. Be sure to take along information about your business and ask for further information on theirs. Three buddy businesses is a nice number to have on your side.
Once you’ve established a buddy relationship with another entrepreneur, your next step is to mutually advertise. A common, yet not so creative, way to do that is to simply recommend your buddy to your current clients and your buddy do the same for you with his clients.
For example, a wedding coordinator who is hired by a newly engaged couple might recommend her photographer buddy to them for the wedding. Or, a photographer who just did engagement pictures for a couple should recommend his wedding coordinator buddy to them.
If you’re looking for a more inventive way to get the word out to both sets of clients, I recommend something like the “business card bowl contest” – a simple procedure that not only lets people know about you, but lets you know about potential customers as well.
Each establishment needs to have an attractive bowl of some sort, like a large fish bowl – something big enough for someone’s hand to fit in. The premises is that customers place their business cards in the bowl and, at the end of a specified time line (say two weeks so that everyone has a chance to actually hear about the contest), a name is drawn and the winner receives a gift certificate to your buddy business.
You may be wondering, why not a gift certificate to your own business. Well, your buddy should be conducting the same contest with his prize being a gift certificate to – you guessed it – your business. The idea is to get your clients to check out your buddy’s business and your buddy’s clients to check out yours, thus expanding your network.
Be sure to advertise the contests through your normal media outlets, as well as at your business location. Also, have some entry cards available for those customers who may not have their own business card, but would still like to participate in the contest. Just be sure to indicate that the card must be filled out completely (with all pertinent contact information, of course) in order to qualify to win the contest. That way, you get the full benefit of their entry.
And the fun doesn’t stop there. Once the contests are over, you and your buddy should come together and send a joint letter to all of the contestants thanking them for their participation in the contest and loyalty to your company, and telling them about the benefits of both businesses. Be sure to provide all possible contact information for your businesses and give the client the option to join your mailing or e-newsletter lists through your websites.
The fact that those clients participate in the contests by giving you direct contact information, indicates that they are willing to receive, and actually read, further advertising from your business. And, when your business has future promotions or specials, send them an advertisement in the mail about that as well (especially if they sign up for your mailing list). And, once again, you have successfully expanded your network.
This is just one of many possibilities to take advantage of the benefits of your new found “buddy business.” Be inventive and coordinate your promotions and services. You surely won’t be disappointed!
• About.com: Increase The Power of Your Marketing With Buddy Networking
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