So far, in my “who has the time” series I have focused on the critical marketing activities needed to maximize your marketing investment. Planning is essential so you are able to focus in the right areas and you need public relations to communicate with your market about who you are and what you do. The third very important component is business development. Developing and cultivating your business relationships are crucial if you want to grow your business and make more money.
So, how many times have you attended networking activities and had all good intentions of following up with everyone you met and then what, you do nothing? You are probably among the majority. Why? Maybe lack of time or you are not sure how to follow-up. Or you just don’t have a reliable process in place…all valid reasons, but not acceptable reasons.
Business development is all about creating a process to keep in touch with your contacts and building relationships. I won’t try to convince you that this doesn’t take some time. It does. It is a time-consuming process, but one that can be maximized and structured so that you can maintain it efficiently. I don’t advise being a slave to your contact database, but I do suggest that you implement a system that enables you to keep track of everyone in your network and to stay in touch on a regular basis.
The important thing is to communicate with your customers and leads in the way they want you to stay in touch. You do not have to do all things, but you should use your time wisely and invest consistent effort in those relationship management techniques that help you to stay top of mind with those people. Besides planning and PR, this is another area where most small business owners struggle with. They just don’t know where to start or how to stay connected while managing their other critical business activities. If you are like most small business owners, you are wearing multiple hats and it is difficult to manage everything on a day-to-day basis.
You may know this already, but I am also a small business owner and can relate to being in this situation. In fact, I AM in this situation. The one thing I can offer is some advice on how to create a cost-effective relationship strategy that helps you stay connected. Okay, here goes:
- You MUST have a relationship management system. Don’t let this intimidate you, it doesn’t have to be complicated. But you have to be organized to be about to stay in touch with everyone.
- You should have a clear understanding of HOW to communicate with your contacts. Face-to-face? Online? Direct mail? Email? Again, don’t be overwhelmed, instead initially focus on the 1-2 activities that would be most effective with your contacts. After that is up and running, you can always add other methods. Remember, you don’t use all the tools in your toolbox every time you fix something.
- An effective referral engine is also important. By collaborating with other people you are essentially cultivating a mini sales force for your organization that is constantly running. The key is being about to work with referral partners for mutual benefit and sharing information with each other about your ideal referral and the types of contacts that would be most qualified for you.
- A networking strategy is necessary for business growth. You can meet all kinds of people and collect a mass of business cards, but unless you develop a process for effective networking, your efforts are wasted. Strategic networking is staying connected to people you meet and figuring out any joint opportunities to support your businesses. This isn’t staying in touch with everyone, but you do need to qualify your leads and focus your efforts where there are the greatest synergies. In addition, a successful networking strategy is two-fold and you need to share with others before expecting to receive.
- A website that clearly articulates what you do is essential. Really. In this day and age, whenever you meet someone or you are referred, the first place someone will go to get more information is your website. A website is like a handshake. It is used to greet someone and in the first few seconds a first impression is established and a decision is made about whether or not to get to know you better.
Okay, here’s my plug, and I will keep it brief, my BD-PRo Marketing Toolkit contains all the tools and resources every small business owner needs to do planning, public relations, and business development on a budget. So if you want to invest in something that will help you to get started or compliment your current marketing efforts, you may want to consider this product. It contains a quick-start guide so you can assess what you need to do because you don’t have the time to do everything, I don’t either, so go check out my website at www.bdpromarketing.com for more information about this extremely valuable, customized marketing resource. And while you are at it, go ahead and subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any future posts.