Social media is a great tool, particularly in business. It is also easy to hide behind.
Does it takes the place of face-to-face human contact ?
When I originally started working in the Image industry nearly 20 years ago, I was scanning the Yellow Pages for business. Now it is totally different. We have Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and more, and we can access so much from the world wide web. This can be very helfpul, however it can be too easy to use email or social media and not pick up the phone or meet face to face for a coffee and chat.
As I have been monitoring processes that work in my business, it has become apparent to me that picking up the phone, to talk to my potential and existing customers really does build rapport and make them feel valued; it has also bought in some cash, which I know wouldn’t have happened if I I had only sent an email instead.
Don’t misunderstand me, I believe it is essential to have a strategy for Facebook, Linked In, email etc. E-mail makes it easy and quick to contact your customers, however this form of written communication fails to convey any expression of emotion and at worst the message can be misinterpreted causing confusion.
Connecting face to face is better for business
In her article: Why E-Mail May Be Hurting Off-Line Relationships, Belinda Luscombe says
“It’s possible that instead of fostering real friendships off-line, e-mail and social networking may take the place of them — and the distance inherent in screen-only interactions may breed feelings of isolation or a tendency to care less about other people. After all, if you don’t feel like dealing with a friend’s problem online, all you have to do is log off. The problem is, as empathy wanes, so does trust. And without trust, you can’t have a cohesive society.”
I know she is talking about working in a corporate company in America, however does this have the same effect with our prospects? I still believe people buy people.
It is possible, (if you haven’t already done so) to set up your marketing systems to include automated emails etc., leaving you more time to go to networking events and meet prospects face to face.
Networking – do you have a strategy?
Choose the networking groups that target the clients you want to reach. For me it is mainly Women’s business networking groups.
For some people it can be daunting to walk into a room full of strangers. There are helpful strategies you can put in place. Ask the group organiser to introduce you to the contacts that are relevant to your profession or business.
During the conversation with a new networker ask, “who is your ideal client?” Pass on any potential leads you may have to them – this is a sure way to encourage people to remember you as they will want to reciprocate and help your business too. Robert Cialdini in his book Influence Science and Practice has some great insights into reciprocation and how it can influence people who negotiate and sell.
A lady I met at a networking Chamber group has got a real gift for putting people in contact with one another. She introduces people by email thus enabling them to continue to connect if they want to. She is very successful at this and produces some great connections and leads and tells me she really enjoys doing it.
If you are given a lead follow it up. If it does not work out immediately add them to your contact list and follow up at regular intervals just to stay in touch.
Contact those people you meet who you think may benefit from your expertise and vice versa. Try and think of it from a “win win” perspective. Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and arrange a meeting to share ideas and maybe the possibility of collaborating on projects.
Build a small networking group and nurture those relationships
We often think of networking as reaching out to new people, however, you need to nurture the network that you already have.
Take the time to be personal with communication
Ensure you maintain a professional and friendly image. It takes time and effort to establish a personal relationship, however I think you will automatically attract more attention.
Some businesses include prospects on their corporate greeting cards list as mail received by post always receives direct attention.
Pick up the phone
Even if you have sent an email along with your website details following it up with a phone call to discuss the details of a possible opportunity. It is a great way to build rapport with potential clients. If possible, it is helpful to agree a mutually convenient time with your prospect beforehand.
Whether you are in your office attending to your social media or out meeting and greeting what you wear is still important.
Sitting at your computer in jogging pants and a t-shirt does little to help your professionalism or your motivation. You don’t need to put a full blown corporate suit on, (unless you want to!), a smart casual look is appropriate and will make you feel more successful and motivated to achieve.
When you are out networking, meeting new prospects or giving talks related to your area of expertise, dress to impress. It has been proved in many studies that people are influenced by what they see and what image you are projecting.
Here is an interesting blog taken from the Influence at Work website on Dressing to Impress:-
Maybe it is time to ask yourself the question “Am I allocating my time between social media and networking equally?”
It is easy to stay in our comfort zones and make excuses that we are too busy to meet up for coffee or we are too busy to do social media. I think we need to do both to build a profitable business.
After chatting to my business advisor I have decided to do 1 ½ hours a day social media and go to at least one networking event a week, as well as follow up at least three people from these events. Obviously you need to have a strategy that works for you and after a suitable time measure the results and make any amendments necessary, after all time is money”.
Maybe I will meet you face to face some day somewhere?!
Until then – happy networking or as some people call it “netwinning”.