As a small business owner, you’re trying to make the most of your marketing dollars. Each day you focus on how you can build stronger relationships in an increasingly crowded economic climate. Some of this happens online, as we’ve discussed, but even today with so many online channels it’s hard to beat eye contact and a handshake.

See, as in-person meetings become more rare because of teleconferencing options and online messaging, you need to focus even more on building a personal network. It may be just the advantage your small business needs. If you need some help getting started, HealthMarkets has some advice. We spend a lot of time talking with entrepreneurs about their business needs, so we know a thing or two about how to connect with humans in a digital world.

What are the benefits of a business network?

Building a strong support network of people you can trust may have a positive effect on your business. In fact, just speaking to people face-to-face has positive consequences. Eye contact may convey respect, and it can show you are confident in what you are saying and help you develop an emotional connection with your audience. In an age when smartphones are distracting us from looking one another in the eye, meeting a business colleague in person to discuss your goals will get recognized.

How powerful is eye contact, you ask? Well, one study showed that even the cartoon faces on cereal boxes were able to elicit an emotional reaction if they were focused on a consumer.

In addition to building a connection with people, networking in person may help you:

  • Gain referrals: At a meeting of like-minded individuals, there are likely to be opportunities to win business. A recommendation from a mutual friend is a powerful motivator if a potential partner is on the fence. Just be sure to return the favor.
  • Gather advice: If you have a network of business professionals to lean on, likely there is an issue you are facing or will face in the future that has already been experienced by someone in the group. How great is it to be able to learn from others’ challenges? You may be able to overcome hurdles before they arise.
  • Make friends: One thing we know about leadership is that it is stressful and may even be lonely. When an entrepreneur has a lot of decisions to make and the wellbeing of multiple employees in his or her hands, having a friend to lean on may help a lot.

There are many benefits for the small business owner who steps out and networks with other entrepreneurs. It may help grow business, or help the small business owner better predict where he or she is headed in the future.

How to build a business network

There are a number of ways to get started building a business network. Groups may exist in your area or it may be up to you to get a group of small business leaders together. Let’s talk about some strategies you can use to start your network and maximize its impact on your business.

  • Investigate online: Many small business support groups already exist in cities across the country. The Small Business Administration can help you find local business organizations. Many of these offer networking solutions.
  • Put yourself out there: If you can’t find an already established group of local business leaders to join, start your own. Calling a group of successful people and asking them for help may sound intimidating. So offer your expertise or advice in the invitation and start the process.
  • Navigate as a team: When you build a group, run decisions by each other, talk about opportunities and share lessons learned. While members of a small business group may have roots in any number of organizations, many of the challenges related to competition, compensation, and health insurance coverage are similar.
  • Identify new members: Grow your support group through new business connections and referrals, as this helps you gain access to diversified opinions and expertise down the road.

Small businesses across the country are dealing with similar issues, and health insurance coverage is one of the more expensive decisions a company faces. It’s important to build a small business network, a group of people who can help you learn and talk through decisions before you take a large step with your business.

Along with your support network of fellow business leaders, HealthMarkets is always by your side to help you make decisions about what is best for you and your employees when it comes to health coverage. Call (800) 976-5818 for help sifting through all the fine print, ensuring you get the best options that are available to you from the ACA’s system.

You can even invite your local HealthMarkets agent to sit in on your business meeting to help answer questions about coverage—we pride ourselves on our committed, in-person approach to finding you the best insurance options available. Let us be part of that network you’re building; we won’t lead you astray.

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