In Savannah, small businesses and networking go hand in hand — you don’t just build your business based on clients, you build your business based on personal connections.
That was the message given Tuesday at the Small Business Chamber of Savannah’s monthly meeting where a panel of small business entrepreneurs — Regan Drake, Grand Garages; Tonya Reed, Henry Pluming Co.; Scott West, Savannah Master Calendar and Stacie Jaynes, Sago Property Management — stressed the importance of networking, social media and building personal relationships to grow your business.
“Relationships are the key in networking, and if you give a little bit, you’re going to get back from that,” Jaynes said in advising the group to set themselves apart when networking and meeting potential new clients.
“When you approach somebody for networking, you want to create a relationship, ask them to lunch, introduce yourself and create a comfort level. If you want to be set apart from the other people, create a unique situation that sets you apart. Don’t just give them your business card... Giving is getting and getting is giving,” she said
“In a town like Savannah, relationships and being on top of people’s minds is what’s so important... Of course we’re here to make money, but ultimately we’re all here to help each other.”
The panel also discussed the importance of social media when reaching out to former and future clients.
For Jaynes, who admits she’s not the best when it comes to social media, scheduling posts in advance and editing as needed has proven effective.
Other panel members said something as simple as uploading a picture from your iPhone to Facebook and tagging friends can help spread the word about your business or event because of the chain reaction of images that can be shared.
Drake, who offers full service makeovers, custom organization and cleaning for garages, said he relies on satisfied customers to share photos of his work on Facebook, which often produces new clients months after the initial work is completed.
“Last November I did a custom organization job for a lady who was just ecstatic with the final product, and I took some before and after photos and asked her to share them,” said Drake, who relies primarily on networking and referrals in his line of work and hasn’t used traditional advertising since starting his company in August.
“Last night I got a phone call from a neighbor of hers that remembered seeing the post from last November, and now I’ve got an appointment set for a full garage makeover. This is the second customer I’ve gotten from her sharing that post.”
SBC vice president Ammie Dover said small business owners often are wary of social media and networking because they see it as another duty or task to add to their already busy schedule.
“(Social media) is actually sharing the things you’re already doing... What I hope what people got out of the presentation is that, ‘I can do this, I can do this in my daily life and in my business rhythm.’ That’s really when it’s done best when it’s part of your business rhythm,” Dover said.
“As a small business, you have to maximize the resources that you have. The people in this room can be a resource for your business. It takes networking with intention, and it takes making personal connections and building relationships.”