Networking advice from Linda Carlson

Business and trade groups are an easy way to introduce yourself to a new section of your community


This article originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of INSTORE.

Associations offer opportunities for creating visibility for your shop — and some cost nothing more than the price of a luncheon or a few hours of your time.

Consider four categories of associations, many with overlapping membership: jeweler and gift-retailer trade groups, chambers of commerce and civic groups, and organizations that customers belong to, such as Fashion Group International and local alumni chapters for law and graduate business schools. Opportunities vary from networking and writing for the association newsletter to making contacts using association directories.

Given limited time and resources, you can’t attend every meeting, contribute to every blog, speak at every conference, or rent every mailing list. So start by identifying the groups available to you, and prioritizing: which are most important in developing new customers and which will provide the most publicity for you in their online and print media? With a little online research, you can follow such groups on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and similar sites, and join appropriate LinkedIn groups. To flag opportunities to comment on these pages, set up a Google alert (google.com/alerts) such as “Alternatives to diamond engagement rings,” so you’ll be notified whenever a Web page uses that phrase.

Another option for promotion without leaving your store is writing for association newsletters, blogs, websites and the LinkedIn groups you’ve joined (for example, search for “fashion jewelry” under “Interests” on the LinkedIn menu.) Review the print and online publications you receive and check others in your industry and area for “writer guidelines”. Besides jeweler, fashion, gift and retailer media, look at local business publications. To determine which media are read by your target audience, find the publications’ advertising media kit, which will describe subscribers.


“If I were a neighborhood jeweler in Seattle, I’d speak to women’s professional groups on ‘Bling for the Business Wardrobe,’ or on how to buy investment jewelry.”


When you do leave the store for an event, make sure you’ve got a pocket full of business cards. If you’re a networking novice, and uncomfortable attending a meeting where you know no one, here are a few tips: First, check the meeting announcement for the speaker’s name and topic. Second, go early, before attendees are bunched in clusters that look intimidating. Third, be prepared with conversation starters: For example, “Did you come primarily to hear [Speaker Name]?” or “What do you see as the major benefit of membership?” This second question is almost guaranteed to provide the chance to describe your business.

Ease into public speaking by serving as program chair for a group you belong to, which will require that you introduce each speaker and possibly organize panels that include you. Make sure you have one speech outlined on a topic that’s important to you, to use when you can’t arrange a speaker, or when one cancels on short notice.

Speeches are less intimidating to write if you start with three points of information of value to your audience. For example, if I were a neighborhood jeweler in Seattle, I’d speak to women’s professional groups on “Bling for the Business Wardrobe,” or on how to buy investment jewelry. I’d also want to speak to the local chapters of fashion photographers and stylists, to increase the chances of my merchandise being featured in fashion shoots in local magazines and newspapers.

If you feel as if your promotion is stuck in “same old, same old” and “been there, done that,” look at associations as a means of introducing yourself and your store to new prospects, new media and fashion opinion leaders.


Linda Carlson (lindacarlson.com) is the author of Advertising with Small Budgets for Big Results: How to Buy Print, Broadcast, Outdoor, Online, Direct Response & Offbeat Media.