Online or offline, building business is about building relationships. This is why so many people say they get the bulk of their business from referrals. How do you build a 1 on 1 relationship with thousands of people at a time?
You want to work with the best right? How do you know who the best is when you’re researching outside resources? Accountants, lawyers, management consultants or marketing firms – how do you know if they are the right fit for you? Your response is probably similar to many of us, “I ask people I know for a referral”. We trust the people around us to recommend a contact that will be the right fit. Saturday after my hair appointment I asked my stylist for a referral to a good catering company and last week I posted a request on Linked-In to my connections for a reference for a strong copywriter with a background in writing medical advertising. Is there a difference in where we look for referrals in today’s business world? And if there is, why aren’t more small businesses using these tools to gain new customers?
Online or offline, building business is about building relationships. This is why so many people say they get the bulk of their business from referrals. How do you build a 1 on 1 relationship with thousands of people at a time? The web has made that very possible for many of us and this is an important element to a long-term marketing strategy. Building your reputation as an industry expert is a way of building your 1 on 1 relationship with thousands of people and you don’t have to be a journalist or a radio personality to accomplish this. You just have to be You. Be real. Today’s social media tools have made reaching an audience of thousands possible for many small businesses, and it can make it a reality for you. Let’s examine a few key tools that build relationships.
At this point blogging is part of many marketing conversations but it is usually approached as a sales tool instead of what it is meant to be: an online journal. The distinction is very important because the first is contrived and the second is altruistic. Becoming a blogger means that you want to get involved in a conversation, that you have an opinion to add you feel others can benefit from. When you think about how much you educate your customers about your services, you can see where your advice can be of great value. I asked Susan Getgood, one of my favorite bloggers, if blogging benefited business consultants. Susan’s reply: “A blog helps a consultant establish and maintain a position as a thought leader. This can lead to speaking engagements, book deals and, most importantly, business opportunities. This is particularly important if you are an independent competing with larger agencies; the blog evens out the playing field a bit.” Business owners don’t just read business magazines, they read blogs just like this one and they begin to develop a bond with the writer trusting their advice. Is it time to think about building your creditability through a blog?
Writing may not be your thing, but speaking may be what suits you. Then podcasting maybe a better fit than a blog. The beauty of podcasting is that people can hear your personality, your excitement and your energy when you verbalize what you do and your opinions in your industry. Approaching a podcast isn’t that different than approaching a blog. Your strategy should be to help give listeners advice and build relationships.
Nowadays you can’t open your email without being asked to join someone’s Linked-in connections or friends list on Facebook. Being part of this community doen’t mean you’re building relationships you need to get involved. Join groups, offer advice and position yourself as an industry expert. It’s not about soliciting business. People want to hire the best and being part of the conversation builds your virtual reputation and business always follows.
I have been building relationships with clients for more than ten years. I started with email marketing, always offering free advice and reminding readers what my expertise was in and that I was here when they were ready. I added blogging to this strategy almost three years ago. This includes blogging on my own site and contributing to other blogs along with writing for smallbiztechnology.com. Each strategy has proved very productive leading to new business, repeat business and outside opportunities as a speaker and columnist for other publications. The key to success in any of these strategies is being committed. As you can see by my plan, I have focused on long-term relationship building. To do this you have to stay on track – if you blog you have to write frequently. You are asking readers and listeners to buy into your opinions and advice; therefore, you have to keep them flowing. To be truly successful you need to commit to your strategy. Today, business isn’t just about what you, do it’s about who you are and the relationships you are building online.
About the author: Jennifer M. Shaheen CIW, CI, is the President & Technology Therapist for The Technology Therapy Group. More information visit: www.technologytherapy.com