As a small business owner, you may be well acquainted with the owners of your neighboring businesses, but if you want to open more of a dialogue in your business community, a social networking site is here to help. It’s called Alignable.
Alignable is a free online networking site for local business owners to connect and build relationships with other business owners located nearby, who are in their industry or who are interested in specific topics.
The website launched in January 2014 and, since then, thousands of business owners across North America have joined to build relationships that help their businesses grow and succeed.
The platform succeeds because it uses the idea of generating new customers through word-of-mouth referrals, according to Eric Groves, co-founder of Alignable.
“With Alignable, we’ve seen business owners meeting others literally across the street through the platform,” Groves says. “Businesses are leveraging these connections to move to an offline discussion. They also share what they’re doing on a regular basis to make it easier for their network of connections to stay up to date in a position to share it with others.”
To use Alienable, business owners register with the website and create profiles. The platform then introduces them to owners of nearby businesses. Additionally, the owners build a network by adding and recommending businesses they would like to work with, are already working with and already recommend to their customers.
Business owners can also connect with other people across the country in their specific industries to ask questions, connect and share ideas.
The social networking site is a great tool for owners, including home improvement retailers, to connect with their small business communities, according to Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand, an organization that supports locally owned businesses.
“We’ve been big fans of Alignable for awhile now,” Brunelle says. “It’s a great way for independent retailers to network and share best practices with other independents right in their own neighborhoods.”
Alignable works similarly to networking sites such as LinkedIn and the dating site Match.com, according to Groves. For the most success, small business owners should make sure to look for authentic connections and then take as much of those relationships offline as possible, he says.
So what can independent home improvement retailers bring to the table through Alignable? The problem solving skills hardware store owners have can help start conversations and help their communities learn about topics they might not be as knowledgable in, Groves says.
“I think the beautiful thing about the independent home improvement industry is that everybody walking through the doors of those businesses are trying to solve a problem,” Groves says. “These retailers are natural problem solvers. On Alignable, they can engage their community by sharing knowledge, which makes them the go-to expert.”
After retailers create profiles and build their networks by inviting other business owners to connect or join the site, they should work on improving their profiles. A successful profile will offer information other business owners would want to know, such as events coming up, services and products the business offers.
“Word-of-mouth is the No. 1 source of new business,” Groves says. “That’s comprised of two things: words you want others to share about your business. And mouths: your network of people interested in your business and sharing it with others. By building a network on Alignable, you’re able to do both.”