While face-to-face contact is important for any small business opportunity, it is especially crucial for women franchisees trying to gain a competitive edge.

Using online networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is an important part of any savvy franchisee's marketing strategy. However, in today's tough market, many woman are turning away from their computers and looking to the in-person resources around them, All Business writes.

Building in-person relationships can be a "recession buster" for female franchisees, Pam Crespo, a franchise owner, told the Web site. "You can’t put a price on a support team that continually sends referrals for your business and believes in the services you provide," she explained.

In addition to the day-to-day duties of running a franchise, Crespo says she devotes about 20 percent of her work week to networking, and the effort has paid off - in the past year, Crespo's sales have doubled, despite decreased spending on marketing campaigns, All Business reports.

While women may be considered more "natural collaborators" and as more focused on building and maintaining relationships in and out of the workplace, figuring out how to begin creating these crucial connections can be difficult.

There are a variety of networking options of which female franchisees can take advantage. Beginnners should begin by searching on Google or another search engine, using their franchise's city or zip code to generate a list of possible events.

Franchisees should attend as many networking events as they can until they find the right group. "Meeting serious people with the same or common goals is a clear indication you're in the right marketing group," says Crespo.

Additionally, franchisors might offer networking programs - from formal mentoring to face-to-face meetings - that can greatly benefit women franchisees and their operations. These events connect women who are established as franchisees and can offer support to new business owners, the Web site writes.

But in-person networking should not supplant social networking. Both are useful tools that allow franchisees to stay in touch with customers and peers.

Recent technology such as Foursquare is even allowing owners to combine both styles of networking to keep track of contacts. It allows franchisees to stay in the loop concerning what customers are doing and what interests them. Franchisees can also use this tool to reward their most loyal customers with discounts and specials.

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