A Face to the Name; Networking 101

  • Apr 26, 2018

As a brand new business in the Mat-Su Valley, I understand the importance of getting your name out there.  There are many advertising avenues you can take, and it's even more effective to utilize multiple marketing strategies, like radio advertising combined with a unique promotional product from Wild Iris Design and Promotions.  But it doesn't stop there.  In fact, that's only the first step. 

The old adage "It's not what you know, it's who"  has never been more true.  Now more than ever, people don't want to do business with a business; we want to do business with a person.  We want to be able to pick up the phone and call SOMEONE.  We don't want to hear an automated voice on the other end of the line, we don't want to be transferred to multiple people and we certainly don't want to talk to somebody different every time we call.  Especially when there is a problem!

So, while getting your name out there is certainly important, providing a face behind the name is critical.  Fortunately there are networking groups, composed of other small business owners trying to do the same thing we are...connect, build relationships and build trust amongst our peers.  The more time you spend developing relationships within your community, the more you will find that business comes to you.  There are so many groups with their welcome mats out, searching for the services you offer and hoping to find a contact in your industry who they can trust.  Someone they can call on or refer their friends and family to.  Be that someone! 

Mat-Su Business Networking Breakfast typically meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7:30 am (although in May we are meeting on the second Tuesday) at the Windbreak Café.  This is a great group of people from all types of businesses.  We have a presenter each month (May will be your very own Wild Iris Design and Promotions) on various topics, and all have a chance to introduce ourselves and our business in a low key environment perfectly suited to newcomers and oldtimers alike.  Everyone is welcome.

Alaska Referral Network offers meetings on Wednesdays and Thursdays in Anchorage.  We are hoping to open a Wasilla chapter in June.  Wednesday we meet at 11:30 at Peppermill on C St.  The Thursday group currently meets at 7:30 am at Home Instead on Benson Blvd.  ARN is free to join and it is easy to become a member...attend 3 meetings and bring a guest.  We have an excellent website that hosts all member business information, so if your friends or family members are looking for a service, alaskareferralnetwork.com has got you covered.  And again, everyone is welcome.

BNI is an international organization that has several chapters in Alaska.  While it may be a little pricey for someone just starting a business, there is tremendous value in what they offer.  Education. Commitment.  Support.  As a BNI member, you have the chance to educate the other members on different aspects of your business so when they have an opportunity to recommend you, they can speak intelligently and confidently about what you offer.  You are training them to be your salesforce.  What an amazing concept!  Other BNI members are committed to your success, and you are unique in your group.  There is only one realtor.  Only one insurance salesman.  Only one swag distributor like Wild Iris Design and Promotions.  BNI is limited to invitation only...you can't just crash one of their meetings!  But they are extraordinarily welcoming as well as organized.  A very structured environment.

Primrose Retirement Community hosts a monthly breakfast the last Wednesday of each month called "Spotlight on Local Business" where they do just that.  A different local business gives a presentation each month, and guests include a variety of business types from medical professionals to media sales to our very own Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle, always in attendance to show the city's support for small  business, and provide updates on Wasilla's accomplishments and challenges.  Primrose's sales director, Sherrille, has worked diligently to bring awareness to this event and has grown it from a handful of people to over 30 at the last meeting I attended.  And a fabulous breakfast spread is provided!

The Chamber of Commerce is another great platform for socializing with other local business owners as well as political figures.  Aside from the weekly meetings and presentations, Chamber does things like ribbon cuttings, Military Appreciation Day, community clean up and networking train rides!  Plenty of opportunities to get to know other community members in and out of an office setting.

Toastmasters International is a new one to me.  Maria Doney of Century 21, who I first met at the Mat-Su Networking Breakfast, invited me to the grand opening of the newest club in the valley. Toastmasters is another very structured environment with an emphasis on public speaking, and how to overcome your fear of it.  The grand opening was just this past Monday and I must say, while I will definitely attend again, I'm a little nervous.  I don't have an irrational fear of public speaking...it's perfectly rational!  The group works to educate and teach proper speaking techniques, which I love.  They also offer an immediate evaluation and critique of your speech.  The evaluator was kind and had excellent pointers for the speaker.  I am encouraged by the overwhelming feeling of "You're Not Alone" and looking forward to seeing how this group grows and develops.  Meetings are Monday nights from 6-7:30 at the Extreme Fun Center in Wasilla.  All are welcome to attend.

The list goes on...   Each group has something unique to offer, and I find myself thinking of the other members less and less like the businesses they represent, and more like friends.  One of the greatest things about going to any one of these networking events is that you will find some of the same faces at other events, and so many new ones. 

When you can put a face behind the name of any given business, it becomes less anonymous and more personal, which is what we are all seeking...personal attention. At Wild Iris Design and Promotions, I strive every day to add a splash of personal attention to your experience.  I want you to be successful with the tools I can provide, which is why I supply quality, unique products that your customers and potential clients will love and remember you for.  If you are successful, I am successful.

The bottom line is get out there and meet new people.  Be recognized.  Alaska may be the largest state in the union, but we are very small town minded.  We are all neighbors supporting neighbors.  Local businesses supporting local businesses.  The more we get out there and share what we have to offer, the more successful we will be...together.

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