A network needs to be part of your business plan. Use a social network map to determine the types of stakeholders that best fit for your organization. An effective strategy needs to be as important to you as your business financing plan because the right strategy can have a positive impact (and a weak or poor strategy can have no impact or a negative one).
To build your business community you need to understand social media; then build your strategy to include it and make it work for you.
You also need a social network map to develop and demonstrate the connections between you and your business to other individuals and/or businesses.
The map also usually shows the type of relationship; that is, a relationship of values, ideas, products, services, exchange, and more. The importance of mapping your connections is that you can use the map to ensure alignment with your marketing objectives and strategies.
A visual depiction of the map might look like a spider web or like an organization chart.
The points of connection become the relationship between the different types of stakeholders.
Another reason it is important to map out these connections is that it allows you to better to manage your associations and relationships.
Otherwise you can spend lots of time trying to build relationships and conversations but you will get little back in return.
This connection with other stakeholders is somewhat like a small business advisory or small business bureau, except that in a small business connection, you each advise each other (often with some help from an experienced business facilitator).
For example, you might use your relationships with other, non-competing, small business owners to help assess your business financing plan, or your marketing, or strategic plan. It can be very useful to get input from knowledgeable entrepreneurs.
And a small business advisory group, can operate with participants who are not stakeholders in the outcome (or who are the types of stakeholders that you want input from).
Whereas a small business bureau is often a staffed, and paid, group which provides advice to the small business owner.
More recently, social media is focusing businesses on building online social networks. Small business owners can compete with big business by developing their own social connections; it's about building a relationship with customers, potential customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders - online.
Make sure that you correctly define social networks and the impact they can have on your business.
A 'right' sized successful network would include eight to fourteen small business owners who work in affiliated or like businesses and who are prepared to share information and advice with each other.
Basically this connection allows a defined, and participating, group of people to meet, discuss, learn, compare and so much more. The end result is you build your own interactive small business resources.
This could be a group of business owners in the same industry but in non competing locations or non competing services or it could be a group of business owners from different industries with similar challenges to overcome. You can often find connections through your business community and/or the right type of association (e.g. industry or trade associations).
A small business owner of a quick printing business might participate with other quick printing business owners in non-competing locations. This would be a peer-to-peer group. Advantages: this quick printing group could share information on marketing plans, business financing plan, operations plans, and human resources that would be very relevant.
A real estate company business owner might participate in a group that would include complementary business services: a Moving Company business owner; Appliance Distributorship business owner; Interior Design firm owner; etc.
A video production company business owner might participate in a group that would include complementary business services such as wedding planning, photography, florist, event planner, etc.
But do not give up.
Use the Contact Us form on this site to request help in finding or building your own business community.
Invest time in, and energy on, understanding what is social media, how to develop a social network map, the types of stakeholders you need to connect with, and how to build your business community. Make business connections.
The goal is to have a connection with people that you can learn from (both their successes and failures). If you chose to belong to a group with complementary business services you might try to make it happen within a common geographical area.
That way you can 'leverage' the connection to make it work for your group, i.e. if you are the video production company owner in the above example, you can connect with your group to discuss and improve your business AND by making that connection you might get work through the wedding planner and then the florist in your group might get the work for the wedding's flower order and so on.
In this context, where the connection also could provide you with leads for sales, it's important to work with business owners who are committed to the same values as you (quality, safety, service, environment, ethics, are just some of the values I'm referring to).
There are criteria for successful business communities and associations and there are also some really sound business reasons for becoming involved in them.
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