I am often asked by entrepreneurs starting small business, “How do I keep up with what is happening in the business? This is not a simple question to answer as it depends on your communication style, level of knowledge on your business, the business you are in, and what information you feel you need. It also depends on the budget you are working with.
Chambers of Commerce are always a good starting point. They usually have a broad base of businesses that you can network with. By attending their meetings and events, you can get a lot of information about the trends and the economy of the community. This networking also is valuable as it gives you a chance to interact with other entrepreneurs, especially if you normally work alone!
Service clubs are also another way of connecting with the community as well as volunteering with organizations. This is a way of getting known and networking. There are business networking groups that meet and share contacts and promote each other. The Vancouver Island Economic Alliance promotes the economy of Vancouver Island and is an excellent resource.
There may be trade organizations that are the best conduit for information related to what you do. You may be in an industry that does not change much or you may be in an tech industry that is changing almost daily. Regardless, you are in a community, and the wants and needs of the customers and clients in that community change as the demographics change.
Be cautious, as most organizations cost money to join and belong to. Your money, as well as your time, are valuable as a small business owner. You need to decide where your money is best spent to keep up. Do not extend yourself too much or you will be taking from the business instead of contributing to it.
Do not forget Social Media. This is instant connection and a way of feeling the pulse of the community. This is a way of testing the market without spending a lot of money. You can test market at a very reasonable cost. Be careful how you use Social Media. Keep your comments to yourself and only use out to convey positive messages of you may find it is a foe, not a friend!
The bottom line is to use any method sparingly, monitor what is effective, and utilize what is working to your benefit!
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