Most people are familiar with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. While social media can be great marketing tools, the networking aspect is somewhat limited.
Connections made via the internet tend to be more transient than connections formed during face to face contact. Therefore, use the internet to get networking introductions, and then nurture those relationships with face to face contact.
One way to do that is to search for national organizations within your industry, and look for a local chapter to join. Organizations such as The Society of Professional Accountants of Canada, CPA Canada, The Association of Professional Accounting & Tax Consultants, and the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada (to name a few) are great ways to start.
Organizations such as these can help introduce you to others in your field, provide educational opportunities, host networking events, and many offer member chat rooms where you can connect with other members to discuss questions, get recommendations, and build your network. Membership in such organizations can add credibility to your firm as well.
Another interesting networking tool to explore is Meetup.com.
Meetup.com is a great resource for finding local business events to attend. Indicate the geographical area you would like to search (for example, within 5 miles of Ottawa, Ontario), and all the groups within that range will be listed. You can narrow your results by entering various keywords for your search.
There is also a calendar button which takes you directly to the events happening and how many members are registered to attend that event. Create an account with the website for free to join groups and register to attend events in your area.
Alternatively, Meetup.com allows you to start a new group for a small monthly fee (which can then be distributed to group members as a monthly due if you like). Meetup.com will market your group via email to other Meetup members that have expressed interest in your group type.
Starting your own group has various advantages. You will earn credibility as the leader of your group and people will begin turning to you for advice. Ask members how you can help them grow, and you will be amazed to find your own business growing as a result.
You can also host events yourself—either speaking on topics you are knowledgeable about or inviting guest speakers. Online booking sites, like EventBrite and Paperless Post, can help you manage your events and spread the word. Invite a few key clients and then ask them to bring likeminded associates.
Doing so will help you form a stronger bond with existing clients as they look to you as a reliable source of information and advice, and it will introduce you to strong prospects that your clients have already prequalified for you. What a great way to grow your business!