In business, the most popular way of generating leads and revenue is networking. We go to many events such as business associations, chambers of commerce, referral groups, leads groups and more to get our names out there. We shake hands, give out business cards, send out e-mails and setup appointments. In the digital world, social media has opened up more opportunities to build businesses and relationships. The social media realm affords many the opportunity to do business statewide, nationwide and globally.
It’s great to say that you are familiar with someone, a particular brand or even a business. However, are you connected to such? I meet many people who love to name drop and say they know people. They claim to have access to places but when it comes down to it, they are only networked. Networking is simply meeting and greeting someone or something for the sake of beginning to establish a future relationship or business deal. When you ask them to make the connection happen, it’s more of a cold call rather than being introduced to a connection.
As the environment to do business in evolves, we must focus on making connections. Being connected is having an established relationship with a person or business where you have worked with them or did business with them. The goal that we need to focus on is being connected. Stop just networking, get connected! How do you do this?
- Engage people. In terms of online, strike up a conversation about their posting such inquiring more about them or participating in a discussion. Usually in these settings you are dealing with the actual owner of the business. At events, the same rule applies; take your time to fully listen to the person. Don’t just think of what can you sell but how can you support and assist them. Look over their card and tell them about your affairs and then see if a match happens. If not, keep them in the back of your mind for someone else.
- Follow Up after the initial meeting. After you meet someone, you should make it your point to follow up with them either via phone or e-mail. If you are on social media with them, follow up there as well if that is where you met. Don’t just simply add them to your mailing lists, make sure these people are a fit for what you are doing and if not pass them along to someone else. This firms up networking to connecting. Sometimes, send them things they may be interested in and of course, if you come across a lead, send that over as well.
- Participate in projects and activities of others. When was the last time you attended a function hosted by someone else? Sponsored a project? How about purchasing something from them? This is another way of developing a relationship with someone as all too often as people are always seeking people to get involved with them but rarely want to get involved with others. Take a legitimate interest. People take notice. Even within social media and e-mails, share people’s information to your circles and contacts. Do your part to help spread the word.
- Become a brand ambassador. Does one have something that you really believe in or support? Do you think your voice and name recognition can help boost it, then serve as a brand ambassador. Many people often do this for extra income purposes and also help get the message out there about a particular project. Work out a deal and get started.
- Socialized with someone. It’s always great to have friends in business as you need that outlet to talk to people who can relate and also it allows more time to bond. This can be a business lunch, casual phone call, weekend brunch, engaging in a non-stress activity such as golfing, checking out an arts or cultural event and so on. It’s great to learn and see the human side of someone. You could find something that you relate to them on.
This is just a brief listing of ways to focus on developing business relationships and connecting. Don’t just stop at card collecting or being known as the ‘king or queen of business networking.’ Card collecting and being known for attending events is not the best way to grow your business. It may be great to be known but it is not bringing you any revenue, leads or connections. The goal is to continue to grow your business and by connecting enables more people to truly know what you do and yields them ways into growing your firm.
Dominique Huff is the Executive Director and Founder of the South Fulton Business Coalition (www.southfultonbusiness.com). The SFBC, established in Fall 2012 focuses on community and economic development via small businesses and entrepreneurship in the Greater South Fulton community. Huff has been an entrepreneur since 2008 and launched his first business in 2007. He can be reached on his email.