The success and growth of your vegan business are directly impacted by your personal and professional network. Networking is a hugely important component of your marketing efforts, whether you’re just launching your business or are already operational but struggling to gain traction. And it’s something you shouldn’t overlook.
Networking is not just about making sales; it’s about building long-term relationships with like-minded people, which are mutually beneficial. As a vegan business owner, you are passionate about what you have to offer the world and doing your part to create a vegan economy. Networking will help you exponentially increase your reach, contribute to your continuous growth, and ultimately boost your profits as well.
Here are some of the reasons that networking is so important for vegan business owners:
1. Generating leads
We will start with the big one as it is the primary goal of all business owners: lead generation. Your business only succeeds if you have people to sell to, and networking is the best way to generate high-quality leads. Compared to ads or social media marketing, the leads you will generate from networking are more likely to convert to sales. A recent study reports that 83% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase something based on a word-of-mouth recommendation because there is an established sense of trust.
Chatting with people about your business doesn’t need to be salesy. You’re simply letting them know what you have to offer and having an open dialogue about it. If there is interest there, then you’ve got yourself a lead. Who knows? They may even want to purchase from you right away. And even if one specific person doesn’t need your vegan product or service, it could still lead to a referral down the line to someone else.
2. Business optimization and development
Without networking, your business growth and development would suffer. As a vegan business owner, you wear many hats but can’t expect to know every aspect of optimizing your business long-term. You might be skilled in project management technology but be clueless about design. Through networking, you may meet someone who has design skills but doesn’t know about project management. They can provide you with valuable advice in areas where you may lack the skill or interest.
This will enable you to consistently optimize all areas of your business and ensure you’re on top of the latest trends. What works for your business one day may not be as effective the next, so you need to adapt accordingly. Connecting with others in your industry and having open business discussions will help everyone to succeed.
3. Increasing traffic to your website and social media
Building up an online presence takes time. Vegan business owners often invest a pretty penny into ad spend to boost traffic to their website or social media profiles, but networking can be just as effective. Your website serves as the storefront for your vegan business, and even if you sell your product in physical stores, it’s still important that your website gets traffic. The amount of traffic you receive will also contribute to your SEO, making it easier for your audience to find you on search. Equally, if not more important, is the traffic hitting your social media feeds.
The more engagement you get on your social feeds, the more that people will trust your brand. It’s super easy to drop your Instagram handle or brand name to people you meet so they can check you out online when they have a chance. Intentionally hanging out with groups of like-minded people, both online and off, will give you that window to exchange handles. Then you’ll have the space to build relationships that will encourage them to actually follow you and engage with your business online. For example, if you have a vegan yoga pants brand, you can attend weekly yoga classes, form bonds with other regulars, and exchange social handles or website URLs.
4. Building partnerships
On its own, your vegan business can be highly successful. But imagine what you could achieve by doubling, tripling, or quadrupling your customer base. This is totally possible through brand partnerships. Working with other vegan businesses allows you to leverage their already established audience and customer base, channeling them directly to you. Networking exposes you to partnership opportunities you may never have considered, which could help increase profits and make your product or service even more beneficial.
If your product is plant-based burgers, you could partner with a vegan health coach who could recommend your product to their clients. You could also partner with a vegan restaurant that could then start serving your burger on their menu. You could also discover opportunities you may have never considered, such as sponsoring a vegan runner and having them wear your brand on their shirt. These partnerships are mutually beneficial for everyone involved and can help you reach an audience you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
5. Delivering value
You’ve worked so hard to build your vegan business because you truly believe in what it is that you sell. The more people who know about your product or service, the more you can provide value to. Again, networking is not just a sales pitch. You’re presenting a lifestyle and sharing valuable knowledge about your industry that some people may not know. Whether your product is a vegan beauty product, faux leather jackets, or plant-based bacon, networking gives you the chance to increase awareness and inspire change.
Where should you start networking for your vegan business?
Networking doesn’t mean you have to dress in an ironed pants suit and attend an uncomfortable business mixer. You can start networking simply by doing what you love to do and talking about your business. Go to yoga classes, spend time at the dog park or work from a vegan café and start mingling with those around you. Do a quick search online to see if there are any meetups of interest in your local area, or try attending a virtual meetup. One of my favorite places to network online is in Facebook groups. There are tons of networking opportunities at your fingertips that you can use to help boost the success of your vegan business.