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The No. 1 Strategy for Finding and Keeping Customers in 2020

Betsy Dougert,

Vice President of External Relations, SCORE

You’ve heard it a thousand times for a reason: Networking is key. That’s because it works. Entrepreneurs who know how to network effectively establish a deeper connection between their business and the community they serve and tremendously increase the exposure of their brand, ultimately leading to more – and more loyal – customers and greater overall business support.

Reach out

According to the “Megaphone of Main Street: Startups” data report published by SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, new entrepreneurs across the country reported that in their first year of operations, the most successful marketing tactics were networking-based and involved directly engaging with customers.

Specifically, reaching out to a professional or personal network had the highest perceived marketing success rate (65 percent), followed by speaking at events (60 percent) and formal networking groups (54 percent). Clearly, networking is a no-brainer when it comes to spreading the word about your small business. Once you’re ready to start networking, it’s time to make a game plan.

Network with a purpose

On the surface, networking may seem simple, especially if you enjoy talking about how you came to be an entrepreneur or small business owner. However, in order for networking to be most effective for your small business, it’s best to make a strategic plan. Networking at endless local events may not be the most useful investment of your time. Instead, consider exactly what it is you want to achieve, and search for events that cater to the customers or investors you want to reach. Create a target contact list and get to work.

Another useful strategy is to analyze your current network. Before reaching out to new faces, scope your current network and note those who are already supportive of your brand and energy. Individuals who are already familiar with your business can help you make new connections, and they can provide support as you build your brand. New entrepreneurs reported that in their first year of operations, when they hit rough patches, their biggest source of support, inspiration, and motivation was the support of family and friends (66 percent).

Have a plan

After family and friends, the second biggest motivator was having a business plan (43 percent), followed by having a business mentor (43 percent). Luckily, individuals can sign up to receive a free business mentor from SCORE, and can also take advantage of the abundance of free small business resources available on

Now that you’ve got all the support and guidance you need, what are you going to tell the world about your business?

Stories matter

What’s the use of networking if you’re unable to make a connection with people? Part of having a small business networking plan is having a good story to tell.

Every entrepreneur has their own story of passion and perseverance. After years of perfecting your craft, you took a leap of faith and quit your corporate job, or maybe you studied an intricate problem and finally dreamt of a groundbreaking way to fix it. Regardless, there is a juicy story to be told, and your prospective customers are waiting to hear it.

To create a powerful narrative about your brand, remember these four tips:

  1. Good stories are memorable.
  2. Memorable stories tie into emotions.
  3. Emotions help us rationalize and relate to one another.
  4. Empathy and relation create connection.
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