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You’ve Got to Build Your Social Network Offline, Too

aug14-networking-01In this age of social media, we spend so much time wondering how we’re doing online: How many Facebook “likes” does my business have? Have I been retweeted today? Am I posting too much? Not enough? The wrong stuff?

We’re not going to tell you to stop focusing on that stuff. These days, social media marketing is a vital part of running a successful small business.

But we are going to tell you to step away from the screen once in a while and do some face-to-face networking, too.

Where to start? Here are a few ideas to get you meeting and connecting with other Southern Maryland wedding vendors and small business owners.

Get Out There

Find a business organization and go to a meeting or other gathering. The best place to start is with the Chamber of Commerce in your county. Attend events and become a member – and then remain an active member. Sure, not everyone you meet will be in the wedding business, but it’s good to meet people from all walks of life. Who knows when your businesses will be able to help each other out?

Occasionally, Southern Maryland Weddings hosts vendor events, from networking and meet and greets to seminars and workshops. Go! We don’t plan these events for ourselves; we plan them for you.

Vend at a Bridal Show

We’re kind of like a broken record when it comes to bridal shows: You should attend at least one a season. You should set up a booth at least once a season. There’s no better way to meet lots of potential customers all at once and fill in the gaps in your schedule. You get a lot of bang for your buck at a bridal show.

But beyond meeting couples, bridal shows are also a great way to connect with other local wedding vendors. Talk to your neighbors, and spend a little time roaming the show and meeting others. Trade business cards, ask questions, offer advice. And if you find someone you really click with, set up a lunch or coffee date to talk more.

Be Welcoming and Helpful

There’s a lot of competition in the wedding business, and it can be hard for a newcomer to break into the business. Go out of your way to welcome and encourage new businesses, and if it’s beneficial to you, offer to help. Maybe you’re a photographer — team up with other vendors for a styled photo shoot. If you’re a decorator, help out a new venue by styling their location for an open house. Know a new photographer who needs more experience? Offer to help set up a styled photo shoot using your decorating skills or gowns from your shop. By being helpful, you’ll establish yourself as a friendly vendor that others can rely on.

Stay in Touch

No matter where you’ve made connections, be sure to follow up. A quick thank you card, email, or message via social media lets someone you met know you’re glad to have made their acquaintance. If you find you really connected with someone, set a lunch or coffee date to brainstorm ways you can work together to grow both of your businesses.

You can network with the couples who hire you, too. Stay fresh in their minds after the wedding is over so they remember you and recommend you to their friends. One easy way to do this is to send a note for their one-year anniversary. It shows you care about your clients and pay attention to the little things.

Why Bother?

We know you’re busy, and making time for meetings, events, and lunches takes time. It’s easier (trust us, we know) to stay at work and network online. Why does offline networking matter?

It matters because you can build stronger relationships offline than you can online, and that’s what networking is all about: Building relationships – even friendships – to benefit your business. Online, you can pick and choose what you show the world, and it’s a little harder to build real connections. Offline, it’s a little harder to hide, and we think you get better, more beneficial relationships.