Networking can really help grow your business—including a franchise business. The name recognition your franchise already has can help you gain attention and clout more easily in organizations like the Chamber of Commerce or the Rotary Club, so it makes sense to take advantage of opportunities to speak or to head up committees in these groups.
If there are more specific networking opportunities in your own field, the knowledge and training your franchisor provides can help you to become a recognized thought leader, and therefore someone who will get referrals from other companies with similar but not identical services.
Charities and other community groups that are not centered on business can give you a chance to get to know people from other walks of life and to gain visibility in parts of the community where you might not otherwise be known.
No matter what your business, attending networking events and building strong relationships with other people in your community involves being a positive, useful resource. In some cases, this will be obvious—your restaurant franchise can provide the coffee and muffins for a networking breakfast and get samples of your goods into the hands of many decisions makers at once. Networking can also be good for services, though. Setting yourself and your company up as the go-to source for information can work just as well as showing off your wares.
For example, a ProEnergy franchisee might host an event for the community about common sources of energy loss in residential or business buildings. Presentations are meant as an introduction to concepts that are the core of your business products—you might even explain how someone does an energy audit and what to look for in a consultant. It’s easy to see, however, that an energy audit would still be needed for a client to know exactly where their issues are in their building. Providing basic information helps generate the interest in your business services and connects you with potential clients who might not have otherwise contacted you.
Things get more complex, however, if you’re a AdviCoach franchisee or Focal Point Coaching franchisee. Since you specialize in helping businesses and business leaders get back on track with their goals and develop strategic plans to grow business and this is often the point of discussion at networking events, it can feel like you’re giving all your business secrets away for free. Drawing the line between one-off discussions about general business advice and sitting down to draw out a plan, however, is where the difference lies between networking and working. While it’s easier to do when you’re selling products or services that require professional experience and equipment, like ProEnergy franchise, drawing the line is important.
Drawing that line is not only necessary to guard revenue. While few franchisees face the kinds of legal issues with free advice that a doctor or lawyer can face, a company that provides tax services could bring on a PR disaster with some casual free advice.
The easiest way to politely draw the line is to give relevant information that might apply to anyone, and to follow it with a statement like “I can help you with your specific needs if you’d like to make an appointment.” Hand over your business card at this point to make it clear that you’re offering professional services.
If public speaking is not for you, you’ll still find that developing positive interactions with people in your community can pay off. Working together on a committee or a project can create bonds that make people think of you later when they need your goods and services.
This article was originally published by America’s Best Franchises
Published: December 4, 2013