In recent years we have seen an explosive rise in social media use by freelancers and micro-businesses in the service industry. It seems that many small business owners are now casting their net wider and further afield in an attempt to make new connections and, thus, attract new business opportunities.
It probably goes without saying that to win new business you need to be known and trusted, and be ‘seen’ regularly in different places.
However with the lure of so many online opportunities, I think many people don’t realise that looking closer to home can actually be much easier, quicker and potentially more rewarding too!
People often forget about their existing network, both virtual and real, especially when it hasn’t yet delivered new business.
The thing is, the people you know may already trust you — a real bonus when you would dearly love to receive more leads, referrals and new business. But sometimes we expect contacts to provide us with leads, when they are not quite ready to do so.
Perhaps our relationships aren’t quite as strong as we think they are. Or they are too busy and you are not the first person they think of when a business opportunity presents itself.
Here is what you can do. Start by asking yourself some important questions:
- How can I help my existing contacts to get to know me better as a person as well as the ‘expert’ in my field?
- Do I share my knowledge and expertise fairly regularly and am I generous enough?
- Do I really understand their needs and desires so I can help them accordingly? How can I get to know them better?
Enhancing existing relationships can be quite simple:
- Arrange regular informal 1-to-1 meetings over a coffee or lunch. You’ll find out about your contacts’ latest developments and how you can add value to their business
- Always follow up after each meeting — it will help them to remember you!
- Stay in touch by forwarding articles or blog posts (not just your own!) that they will find useful
- Invite them to events that you think they’ll be interested in
- Refer them when you know that they would benefit from meeting one of your other contacts
Keeping in touch with people you already know on a regular basis (without selling to them) really does pay off!
If, reading this, you think that all this may be too time-consuming for you, then my guess is you haven’t yet enlisted the help of online social networks for networking purposes.
If you treat social networking as your personal assistant and use it to stay in touch with your existing network, you simply can’t go wrong!
- Status updates help you to give people bite-sized updates on what you’re up to
- Wall posts or brief private messages on sites such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter or Linked-In allow you to communicate much quicker and more efficiently than via email (and there is no danger of your message disappearing in someone’s junk mail folder either!)
- A blog or newsletter may be less personal but they will remind your contacts of your expertise and your ability to help them
Building strong relationships, both offline and online, always takes time but ultimately, it is generally much harder and more time-consuming to start relationships from scratch than to re-connect with people who already know you.
P.S. Why not add to the above tips or share your own experiences by commenting below?
About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced business coach, mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd.
If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.
Please note, the above article is based on an older version first published here in October 2010.