It is simply amazing how valuable networking is. Networking in essence means going out there into any groups you can find and talking to people about your business. Let's say you go to a local chamber of commerce meeting and meet 20 people in your general area. You tell them all about your business, that sells rug cleaning services. Sure, maybe none of those 20 people can help you - but maybe one of them now talks to a friend who needs a clean rug. Maybe one of them runs the local newspaper and can hook you up with low cost ads. Maybe one has a relative that makes cleaning products that can get you a discount on your supplies.

Think of those studies that show that every human knows every other human if you only use a few intermediate connections. That means that every potential client you could possibly want for your store or service is but a few contacts away. It is up to you to make those contacts. Nobody else will hand you success on a silver platter!

Yes, you might be shy. We all start out shy. Networking skills come with practice. A good way to start is with local chamber of commerce events, because their main purpose is networking. People who are there are there to talk to you. Practice giving an "elevator talk" - i.e. describe your company in a quick and interesting way, in only 2 minutes. Practice that until you really get it down. Get a batch of business cards done up, and hand them out any chance you get. Even if the person you're talking to does not need your business, undoubtedly they know someone who does. It's up to you to get that snowball rolling.

When you're at a networking event, learn how to move from person to person. Don't get locked into talking to one person for a long time. Talk for 5-10 minutes, then move on. It's not being rude, it is mingling. When you go back to subsequent events, you now are growing your group of supporters.

Whether it's organizations that relate to your topic, chamber of commerce meetings, business-to-business groups in your area, or other events, be sure to have a friendly smile, a few business cards and a quick, fun description of what you do. The more you can spread the word, the more business that will flow your way!

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