ADVICE

Making connections count

Posted 12/30/13

Connections. Everyone in business knows they’re important – even vital to success. And everybody has connections of one kind of another. The key is to put those connections to work in ways and places that really count.

One thing that sets the most successful small businesses and startups apart from all the others is their ability to connect. If you can build strong relationships and connect with clients and customers, your business will almost certainly grow.

So how can you make this happen? First off, gather your strategies and tactics and start changing the way you work. Even if you’re a “lone wolf” type, the idea is to forge better business relationships and a network of colleagues and contacts who will stick with you. These are people who will voluntarily recommend your services to others.

Plan your connection priorities: Sometimes business relationships happen naturally over time. But mostly they’re built. Don’t worry if you’re not a “people person.” That’s not important. It’s not about charm. It’s about being aware of the relationships you are forming. Start with categories of people who are important to your success: clients, vendors and colleagues.

When your connections know that they really matter to you, and that you’re willing to help them, their attitudes change. Their respect for you grows, they’ll work harder for you and be more aligned with your goals.

Don’t just network. Work with your network. Technology has made networking seem almost too easy. Social media tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter let anyone create a giant web of business relationships. But that can be an illusion. A large online “network” of people you barely know (or don’t know at all) doesn’t do you much good just sitting there. In order to truly leverage the business connections you make, you’ve got to put in some effort.

Try these strategies for keeping in touch:

• Meeting follow-up. Have a system for following up after a meeting, call, or contact with an individual or a business. This could be a handwritten note, an email, a phone call or social media contact.

• Periodic individual contact. Initiate connections periodically with people on your list to stay in touch and maintain the relationship.

• Communication campaigns. Target a subgroup within your network (clients, prospects, etc.) whenever you have something you particularly want them to know. •


Daniel Kehrer can be reached at editor@bizbest.com.

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