Networking. What does that term bring up for you?
I’ve never met someone who had a neutral reaction to this word. Most people are either on the “bring it on!” or “where’s the nearest exit” side of the spectrum. When it comes to networking as it’s traditionally thought of — a room full of people chatting at an event — I fall squarely in the “run for the exit” crowd.
Even though I’m glad to avoid this type of networking event, as a mom of two young children who works from home, it would honestly be really difficult for me to attend any traditional networking meeting even if I wanted to.
So, what’s a mom-in-business to do?
At Pepperlane, we know that relationships are key to building successful small businesses. What does this have to do with networking? Well, networking is all about building relationships. And mama, I KNOW you’re good at THAT.
Can’t make the after-work happy hour or the “right at kid meltdown/dinner/bath (in)conveniently timed event”? Here are five ways to connect that work for busy moms.
Join and *Participate In* Online Groups
Join Facebook groups in your niche and others that are broader so that you aren’t in a silo. To find interesting Facebook Groups, use Facebook Discover. Of course, we’d love to see you in the Pepperlane Community Group- Moms Building Businesses. Once you’re in a few groups, the same rules apply online as in person. Participate genuinely and provide value first. The more you engage in the group — by commenting in encouraging and helpful ways on posts — the more you will get out of that group. Others will get to know you as an encouraging presence, a thought leader, or someone who can help them.
Stay in Touch
Just as you would with a friend, stay in touch! Create a system to follow up, to keep the conversation going over time, and provide value when you can. Want a simple way to stay organized? Request a copy of our Contact Manager. Not everyone in your network will be a customer, but having even a simple process in place will help you organize your contacts. Can’t swing that coffee date across town before you have to pick up your child? Schedule a phone call or video call. In-person networking meetings are wonderful, of course, but if you can’t make one happen this week, a phone or video call is the next best thing.
Practice Your Pitch
When someone asks you what you do, you want your response to flow. Try it out with people in your inner circle. In 1-3 sentences, what do you do? It’s amazing how much more confident you’ll be going into a new conversation having practiced talking about what you do in a succinct way.
Take Online Courses
Nothing builds a bond like going through something with another person. In addition to the information you’ll learn from taking a course, you’ll likely also gain a few relationships and have an authentic and captive audience to highlight your expertise. Instead of spending hours writing social or blog content, you have an opportunity for people to get to know you better and how you provide value. Browse Meetup, join community and/or industry listservs near you or join us for a Pepperlane Pathway Course.
Don’t underestimate your acquaintances
There’s some cool research by a sociologist named Mark Granovetter that shows that the people closest to you in your network aren’t necessarily the people who hold the ticket to new and cool opportunities. After all, there’s a lot of overlap between the people in your inner circle and the people in THEIR inner circles. “But your weak ties, which include people you met just once in passing, are your ticket to a whole new social world.” In other words, it’s wonderful to cast a wide net of interesting acquaintances. You never know who they might be able to connect you with.
Networking is relationship building. And for small businesses, relationship building is the foundation of creating a clientele. After all, as Bob Burg told us, “All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.”
Yes, you need to expand your network in order to create the business of your dreams, but you can do it on your own terms. You have a lot to offer to your clients and to your network, so get out there and show the world what you’ve got! I hope you feel empowered and to make one small step today to find and nurture those connections.
Rachel Moyer is Pepperlane’s Community Manager, mom to two young children, and an entrepreneur with a passion for supporting early parenthood. Her side-hustle, We Bloom, sends care packages to new mothers. As a working mom herself, Rachel has a passion for supporting moms who are building their businesses.