Some of the best business people are also prolific networkers. They regularly attend conferences, events, seminars and may even boast about most of their business transactions being conducted on the golf course. Whilst at first glance, it would be tempting to dismiss networking as something irrelevant for the local garage, think again, networking doesn’t have to be undertaken on a grand scale to be effective. In fact, networking in your own local area is far more likely to pay dividends for you as the town or village’s garage.
We have reached the letter ‘N’ in our A-Z series looking at ways to improve your garage operation and expand your business. N is for Network and we’re not talking IT, but getting out and about and connecting with people in your local area and sector.
It is just as important for you to get your name out there as it is for the local accountant, financial advisor or IT consultant. Don’t rely on the fact that your location places you firmly at the centre of your community as the only means to drumming up trade. In this day and age people want to know a business before they transact which has to be done both online and in person. Whilst we do recommend networking online using platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, we have focused on the digital aspect elsewhere in our series (M for Marketing provides you with an overview of social platforms and how to utilise them), here we are looking at the old fashioned form of networking.
That means getting out and about and becoming active in your local community so motorists begin to know your business and what it stands for rather than a place they drive past on the way to the supermarket or a landmark when giving directions.
Find your local business forum and join it, you don’t have to attend every meeting, but quite often they take place in the local pub and gives you the chance to meet and discuss business issues with other likeminded people. If you prefer a more formal event, there are plenty to choose from such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, all of which operate local groups.
Your village or town will have several community groups from the WI to the local scouts. Presenting at the local WI meeting on motoring tips and driving advice or even hosting a fun change the wheel competition will promote your business in a highly engaging manner. Don’t dismiss it out of hand, these opportunities provide you with the chance to meet people in the local area and if they have met you and developed a rapport, they are more likely to bring their business to you. Or perhaps you could offer the local scouts the chance to run a car wash at your premises one weekend to help them raise money for their unit. The scouts may not be old enough to sit behind the wheel yet, but their parents will undoubtedly be motorists. Such events also offer great PR and brilliant content for your social media channels. You will also build trust with different members of your community which is a key factor for many motorists when it comes to choosing a garage for vehicle servicing.
If there’s an opportunity to have a display or stand at your local school fete then be sure to sign up. Just like involvement with the community groups, it gives you the chance to meet residents in the local area who will come to see you as more than just a business in the village, but the garage they know and trust. Be inventive and creative; perhaps host a wheel changing challenge for parents with a prize like a free valet at your garage for the winner to help raise funds.
Attend local business exhibitions
This enables you to cast your net a little wider and allows you to promote your garage among other businesses. You could offer a free service prize draw to encourage attendees to drop in their business card enabling you to develop your database.
Sponsor a local team
Backing a local sports team, perhaps a children’s football or rugby side, for example, is a great way to boost your garage on a local level. You will be able to incorporate your garage name and logo on their shirts and you may also be invited along to present trophies at the end of the season. Parents are always appreciative of companies which invest in the teams in which their little ones play, so don’t underestimate its potential. Make sure you attend some of their events so parents begin to associate the garage with your face as the owner to increase the likelihood of them using your business in the future.
Our advice is to just put the feelers out, find something which interests you and get yourself known in your local area. Your business is likely to reap the rewards as a result whilst whichever group or activity you choose to align yourself will be grateful for your support. It’s a win win and we all love one of those!
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