We can all agree that businesses wouldn’t exist without customers. The waythat businesses attract customers may have changed over the years, but the goal remains the same: make the customer happy and continue to receive business. More people are gaining the courage necessary to start their own small business, but most of them are failing shortly after beginning. According to The Small Business Association, “more than half of all new businesses fail in their first five years.” There are infinite reasons why these businesses have failed, but it all points back to one thing… The company failed to build a strong network and effectively engage with their customers. Alternatives are available for basically anything you spend money on, so a business that didn’t pay attention to and care about your needs most likely didn’t receive your time, energy, or money anymore.
The real question is… how can your business avoid failure caused by lack of connection?
Kick-start: How to Take Off
“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” -Jeff Bezos
Core Values Your personal values play an important part in achieving success. When you can’t see the big picture it’s easy to lose focus and that won’t get you anywhere. Everyone has the same number of hours in a day, but all use the time differently. For many, core values determine how that time is spent. Are you unsure of where your time is going? It may be beneficial to pause and discover what your core values are. If you notice you’re wasting a lot of time that could be of better use elsewhere, then now is the perfect chance to reevaluate those core values.
Pay it forward The number one way to make someone feel important is to be generous. If you’re prepared to give and start to develop generosity as a core value then the human connection will be easy.
Practice sincerity and respect. You could meet the most generous person in the world, but without authenticity and respectfulness, you still won’t feel a connection. The places you chose to spend your hard earned money are most likely genuine companies that seek solutions and respect you as a customer.
Be eager, be brave, and have strength. The famous American poet Pearl Zane Grey once said, “I arise full of eagerness and energy, knowing well what achievement lies ahead of me.” We must know that every opportunity will certainly bring a challenge, but with enough strength, you will push through. Curiosity and bravery soon become a part of YOU and every challenge, no matter how difficult, is suddenly a piece of cake.
Best Networking Practices
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” -John Muir
There are many ways to effectively network, but they all boil down to two main points: 1. Reach out and make connections. 2. Practice perseverance.
Reach out and make connections. How can you stand out and meaningfully provide value? In the book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, Shel Horowitz says, “When breaking into a new community and building new contacts, attitude is key.” Approaching someone is hard, but in all honesty… you have the power. Try to form an attitude of service and gain loyalty by letting others know you’re here to help. In order to make connections and build a community, you have to just get out and do it. When your patience begins to run low, just remember that providing something valuable to someone will eventually lead you to a reward.
One specific way to make connections is to be unique. The more you stand out to the customer, the better your chances are of connecting. An elevator speech is a brief statement about what you do or what you sell. The more your speech sounds like conversation, the easier it will be for your audience to actually listen. In fact, you should be able to show, not just tell, your audience why you’re worth their time and money. An old proverb reads, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If you have a good product that’s beneficial to the customer then one of your problems has already been solved, but a good product still won’t sell without a strong, consistent brand. As an entrepreneur, you should commit to and focus on the quality of your product or service.
Another easy way to make connections is by using professional networking groups. If you demonstrate interest and commitment to these organizations and ask the right questions you’ll be on your way to a strong community. While you’re attending these meetings or gatherings you should meet as many people as you can and create a community of contacts that satisfy your needs, bring together potential clients or connections, and/or already has a developed network. Make your marketing efforts specific to a target audience, but let your networking efforts stay broad. Just like anything else, improvements won’t happen overnight so it’s important to stick with it all the way through.
Practice perseverance. Businesses wouldn’t exist without customers, so having a wide and active network is essential for connecting and engaging. A network has to be built and then nurtured, which takes some time. Start off by reaching out to any contacts you already keep in touch with and find new ways to meet their needs. Then, you can search through old contacts and do the same. You never know where old friends may have landed, but all it takes is some research. Once you’ve run out of phone numbers, you’ll need to go out and intentionally interact with others, this will help bring attention to you and your products or services. A key factor in business is staying aware of what’s happening, not only your own industry, but in the whole business environment. With that sort of practice, you’ll be able to explain to target audiences how you or your business can help them.
Benefits of Connecting: Why It’s Important
“Striving for strong connections leads to greater trust, emotional attachment, and respect from your customers.” -Anonymous
You become more influential. People buy what they know and like. Being connected gives you a greater chance to influence a larger crowd.
Customers become loyal. Loyal customers will stand up for their favorite businesses no matter what happens. Some people love Starbucks and will spread positivity about the company constantly. Others could care less about the success of Starbucks and only spread negative information. Loyal customers will trust you and your risk of being misinterpreted is significantly lowered.
People begin to appreciate you. Striving for customer engagement and strong connections can lead to amazing friendships. There is nobody better than a friend who can support you and encourage you throughout the journey of running a business. The more that people appreciate your business, for what it is or how you help, the greater your chances are of receiving constructive criticism. People are going to listen and understand your struggles, but they want to see you succeed so they’ll give whatever they can.
You overcome the unexpected. Having connections can spark interest in people you would have never thought to target in the first place. This generates more business, but also creates new demands. That’s why it’s important to have a strong community you can turn to for guidance in improving what isn’t working and keeping what is working consistent.
The Act of Connecting: Simple Ways to Connect
“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” -Henry David Thoreau
Anywhere… anytime Any place or situation you’re in is a potential business opportunity, so every interaction you have matters. Preparing yourself ahead of time is a great way to make sure that you make an impact.
Two questions you should ask yourself when networking are: 1. How do you want to impact and influence your audience? 2. How can I help this person?
Shel Horowitz talks about the importance of attitude when networking. To make effective connections, your audience should feel that you have a genuine concern in their values, interests, and needs. Your goal is to prove that you can help. Focusing more on listening and less on talking will allow you to learn their needs and interests and they will feel your compassion and appreciate your concern. Now you’re showing them you will provide the best service or product possible and their loyalty will increase.
“Lay of the Land” While it is sometimes true that the most business you receive is coming from a demographic you didn’t expect, trying to market to the entire human race is too complicated and time-consuming. Many successful marketers avoid this by doing a lay of the land before diving in. Marketing the right way means you’re approaching the right people for your product and using your time wisely. Marketing the wrong way will drain your energy and funds only to leave you in a confused, tangled mess. The lay of the land will help you effectively market your product or service and it can be done in four easy questions: 1. What are you selling? 2. Who are you trying to sell it to? 3. How much will you sell it for? 4. What’s the best way to communicate my product to my target audience?
Basically, completing a lay of the land just means to be aware of and receptive to changes in your industry and the needs of your target audience.
Community Involvement One of the biggest ways to show your audience that you’re dedicated is to become active in your community. Not only will your audience see your efforts, but many associations and organizations can help you connect with new or existing customers face to face and virtually. Everyone knows the first impression is important, but many forget that following up is too. Make your follow up convenient for you by exploring the various organizations or events your audience already participates in.
Maintain Your Connections
“I’ve learned from experience that if you work harder at it, and apply more energy and time to it, and more consistency, you get a better result. It comes from the work.” -Louis C. K.
You’ve got the basics for forming the connections and building strong communities, but don’t let your hard work go to waste by losing them. Many businesses focus too much on making connections and fail to recognize the importance of engaging with the customer.
Learn From Your Customers Bringing in consistent business is a serious accomplishment! Make the rest of your journey easier by using it to your advantage. If you’ve generated enough satisfaction to form loyal customer relationships, then you’ve proven that your desire to be a service to others is genuine. Throughout the entire time your business is up and running you should stay curious, open-minded, and vulnerable. Your customers can help you assess the value of your services on an ongoing basis. One year your product may be extremely popular, but then something new comes out and everyone forgets about it. To avoid losing business you should not only identify and meet any existing needs, but also keep your eyes open for new ones.
Reciprocity… you get what you give. Being transparent, authentic, and available are just a few ways to receive positive feedback, but that’s not what it’s all about. Remember to keep the relationship mutually beneficial, because nobody wants to do anything without a reason. Your customers will be more willing to do what you want if they see you have the drive to exceed their expectations.
Word of Mouth Before technology, word of mouth was the only form of marketing. What many businesses don’t realize is that word of mouth is still a very common way of bringing in new customers. Once you’ve formed customer satisfaction, you must maintain it. Monitor the interactions between your employees and customers and provide immediate feedback and course correction for any complaints. Don’t let one bad interaction ruin your business’s chance of success.
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” -Steve Jobs
Author: MaKayla Dulaney