By Chris Biscuiti

When a new business opens in my area, I always remind myself that the people behind that business have just realized their dreams. After all, the human element of entrepreneurship often gets lost in the shuffle, and there is no better feeling for a new small business owner than to be welcomed into the community with open arms by both customers and fellow entrepreneurs alike. What better way is there to build a rapport with someone than to walk up to him or her, introduce yourself, say hello and leave a little something behind?

If your products and services can help that business grow in any way, then you just got off to a great start when it comes to making a positive impression on the decision-maker(s) of that business. Even if there isn’t a complete match from a client standpoint, there is still a huge benefit to networking with that person. After all, small business owners who work in the same area have so much crossover when it comes to the people they do business with that it’s always a good idea to have as many positive interactions as possible. You never know where the next referral will come from, and your next client could easily come from a referral simply because you were cordial to your new neighbor.

Here are three tips to help you build valuable relationships with new businesses in your surrounding area.

1. Say hello first, then mention how you can help.

Simply saying hello to your new neighborhood colleagues is a great start. It also opens the door for them to introduce themselves back to you, and this is where you can gain some insight into what their business is all about and how you might be able to help. “When a new business is opening, they are often looking for what they need to get up and running successfully,” says Matt Peretz, Minuteman Press Regional Vice President in St. Louis. He adds, “They are finding these businesses either by asking friends/business relationships.”

This means that you can immediately establish yourself as being a resource for information just by saying hello, and this can lead to your new neighbor becoming your new client as well.

2. Give them something useful to remember you by.

Depending on the nature of the new business that is opening, you can put together a welcome pack filled with items that they can use when starting out. Leaving behind a gift basket filled with branded promotional products such as pens, pads, calendars, community maps and more will give the new business owner a bunch of helpful items they can use while also helping your brand resonate with them every time they use one of the promotional items you gave to them. Promotional products have the unique ability to become conversation pieces whenever they are used or on display, and they also make very memorable impressions on the recipients that are delighted to receive them.

3. Extend an invite to an upcoming networking or community event.

Now that you have said hello and bestowed a warm welcome onto your new small business colleagues, the final step in solidifying your relationship with them is to make them feel like a real part of the community. If there is an upcoming business networking event, you can invite them along to meet other entrepreneurs in the area. Also, you could use modern technology such as emails to send invitations, or even introduce two people over email. They will appreciate the gesture and because you’ve already introduced yourself, you will be able to serve as an ambassador for that new business at the event, which will enhance that appreciation for you and also allow you to catch up with and network with other business owners as well.

For an upcoming community happening, the same kind of approach applies since this will give you an opportunity to get out there in your community and to remind residents of your business’ presence while doing the honors of introductions.

At the end of the day, it is a solid business practice to welcome new businesses into your area. The time it takes to say hello is minimal, and yet the value that can come from such an interaction is immeasurable. Not only is it a nice gesture, but it’s also a potentially profitable one where you are likely to be rewarded as highly as you are regarded in the community you serve.