One of the best marketing tools to grow your business is one that many people often forget about: your network. Your network is one of your most powerful assets because it opens up the possibility of new opportunities being sent your way, as well as access to resources and endless opportunities to collaborate.
Although networking is great for business, meeting new people is almost meaningless if you aren’t taking the time to build authentic relationships.
How many networking or industry events have you been to where you’ve met a few cool people, exchanged business cards and followed up by sending them an email, but the conversation ended there? You can’t meet someone at an event, talk for 5-10 minutes and then sit back and wait for opportunities to start rolling your way. Networking isn’t about collecting contacts; it's about growing relationships.
Here are a few ways you can utilize your current network through strategic partnerships to market your business and a few examples from local PDX brands who are killin’ it.
01 / CO-HOST AN EVENT.
Are you a boutique owner with a beautiful space? Or, a designer with gorgeous products? Why not tag team on an event? A few summers ago, I went to the Caravan Pacific's Modern Metal Hair-Tie release party hosted by Betsy & Iya. Known for creating classic American lighting, Caravan Pacific ventured into accessories and created an awesome line of metal hair ties. Together, the two brands teamed up for a night of accessories, wine, good people and an excellent example of a joint event done right.
02 / CO-HOST A GIVEAWAY.
An easy way to collaborate is to co-host a giveaway. You have a product or service. They have a product or service. Why not host a giveaway on social media? Giveaways are great for growing your social following, expanding your audience and driving people to your website.
03 / HOST A DESIGNER-IN-RESIDENCE.
If you are a boutique owner and you have space, why not host a designer residency. This means a designer can essentially rent (or whatever you decide) a space in your boutique to work and conduct business. This helps the boutique owner by bringing in a steady stream of cash and allows the designer to have a reasonably priced space to work because, let’s be real, most emerging designers don’t have a lot of capital to pay the high price of rent.
Hosting a designer is also beneficial because you can cross promote each other. An awesome example of this is when local Portland designer Laurs Kemp held a year-long designer residency at Backtalk. Not only does Backtalk carry her garments, they also hosted a few events together, including her SS16 launch party. Editors Note: Again, as a boutique owner make sure the designer you choose is a match for your store. Conversely, as a designer reaching out to a boutique, make sure what they sell in their store is a match for your brand.
04 / GIVE A SPECIAL SHOPPING PROMOTION.
Bridge Nine Candle Co is my favorite brand for candles. They're local, they smell amazing and they're made from soy, which means they burn slow and evenly. There are many places to purchase Bridge Nine Candles around town, but I always buy mine from Sweet Jayne because they give a $1 discount if you bring the finished glass container back and purchase another. This is a great example of using a shopping promotion to mutually benefit both parties. The holiday shopping event Little Boxes is also an amazing example of using shopping promotions to benefit the people in your network. Little Boxes rewards shoppers for shopping at a handful of local stores by offering discounts and, in some cases, free things.
05 / JOINT PRODUCT/COLLECTION.
I'm a sucker for a good collaboration and Six/Seven is just that! Six/Seven is a partnership between Boet Jewelry and clothing designer Lisa Rietz who've together, created a beautiful fashion line. Many of their pieces feature crocheted wool accents that mirror the crocheted patterns of Boet Jewelry. It's really quite amazing. Collaborating on a product or even a collection is great because it introduces a new audience to your business and can help cut costs by splitting production costs.
06 / ENGAGE WITH EACH OTHER ON SOCIAL MEDIA.
As you may know, both Facebook and Instagram have changed their algorithms so that the more engagement your posts get, the more they'll share your posts with your audience. Not ready to host an event or create a joint product? No problem. By simply interacting with each other on social media: retweeting links, commenting and linking pictures you’re helping each other get seen and expand each other's audience.
07 / GRAB COFFEE.
Have an idea or just want to catch up? Grab coffee with someone in your network once or twice a month. Sometimes brainstorming and chatting about ideas (even if they are in a different line of work) can give you with a different perspective and inspire new ideas.
Expanding your network and meeting new people is great but don't let the connections you've already made collect dust. Maximize your network and pave the way for new opportunities by collaborating with the people you've already made connections with. Take a moment to think about the people in your network. What kinds of skills and talents do they have? How can you combine your talents for a mutually beneficial result?