Relationship Building Requires Follow-up

Checking in is never a bad idea. Whether to make sure ideas discussed at a meeting were shared in a clear fashion or to otherwise cement your interest in a connection, it’s always a good idea to approach a good situation a second time with a clearer understanding of what you want and how you can help should the occasion arise. This is especially important to note following social events.

Networking is much more than showing up and passing around business cards. To truly connect with people, you have to be willing to put in the extra leg work to schedule a follow-up meeting. By doing this, you set yourself apart as an individual truly invested in developing relationships with those you call back. After this follow-up, you’ll have a much more secure standing with the connections in question.

More Than a Meeting

Keep in mind that a follow-up is more than just agreeing to have conversation over coffee. It’s your time to develop a business plan in regard to what this connection could bring about. Learn what you can about them in order to come up talking points. Study the position they play in the company they work for so you can better understand possible offers they could bring to you or even how you can support them and build a stronger relationship.   Take this time to understand their background is a great way to pursue the relationship further without being blindsided or disappointed due to your own imaginings.

Follow-ups are also more than just one meeting. In order to keep up a relationship, you have to be willing to agree to continue your conversations at many points in the future. By forever sharing recent memories together, you stay fresh in their minds, even if it is just for a 15 minute break over a cup of coffee. This way, you are always at the forefront if they come across a job opening or sales opportunity that would further bolster your position.

Offer First

It’s no secret that we connect with others with the slight hope they will offer us payback in the future. However, this will never happen if you don’t approach the situation as a giver. Setting up meetings is a definite step in the right direction as it offers them your time and your attention.  Their agreeing is payback with their own time. From there, offer what you can based on anything that came up during your talks. Did they mention needing a new babysitter? Give them the contact info of yours. Did they rave about the symphony? Invite them to join you for a night at the music hall. No matter how big or how small, it’s a way to be altruistic and place yourself in a good position in their mind.

To build on this, always make sure that what you’re offering is as clear as possible. Miscommunication can be an immediate relationship killer, depending on the person in question. Where some people laugh off little mistakes, others take them personally and refuse any further contact.

Know Your Goals

To make this follow-up beneficial for you as well, don’t schedule anything until you have a definite goal in mind. It doesn’t have to be anything more than getting their direct line at work, but it has to be something. This will provide you with the motivation to seek them out and schedule them into your already busy day. It will also give you a way to drive conversation if it proves to be a little less exciting than it was at the event you met. To further make this easier, give yourself more than one goal and see how many you can hit before time runs out. This way, should you hit one brick wall, you’ll have a few options of where to go without seeming like an indignant person that just doesn’t know when to stop.

Remember that going in with a goal also takes a bit of societal acumen. If you’re looking for job openings, don’t ask them about it straight out of the gate. Start with friendly talk then steer the conversation toward the topic of jobs. Then, if the situation presents itself, you pounce. Because of this, you may swing and miss at the first few networking follow-ups you pursue. Allow for these mistakes so long as you promise yourself you’ll learn from them. With time, you’ll be a networking master.

About the Author:

Maria Elena Duron is a Marketing Coach and Strategist with Know, Like, + Ignite and @mariaduron on Twitter. Would you like practical tips to create and curate content and experiences worthy of being passed person-to-person? –Get exclusive access.

Appreciation in Business When You’re a Solopreneur

How do you feel when someone genuinely appreciates you for your input/effort? It feels nice and warm, doesn’t it?

That’s the kind of feeling you want customers and clients to associate with you. As a solopreneur, chances are you will perform a lot of the business’s tasks yourself, so you’ll probably relate with a lot more people than if you had a team working for you.

As a business owner, you don’t need to be reminded on the importance of keeping customers happy. However, in the midst of all the tasks and appointments you have to keep, you might forget to do the little things like genuinely saying “thank you” that make a whole world of difference in other people’s lives.

Appreciation is important

According to data obtained from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) office on client retention surveys, 68% of clients leave because they perceive the business does not care for them. Compare that to 14% because of product dissatisfaction. At the very least, you can rebound from having a bad product, but where the client feels you do not value them, they will leave, and it will be much harder for you to bring them back.

How people feel about you and their desire to transact with your business are closely related, if not directly proportional. And it’s true in reverse scenarios, too. With the exception of a business offering low prices, you will buy from someone who treats you kindly, smiles, and lets you know how valuable you are to them. So why not do the same for your clients?

Put yourself in their shoes

To understand properly the effort you need to put into your appreciation efforts, you have to think like your customer/client. Remember, in their eyes, it is all about them. Thus, you need to put other’s needs before your own if you are to succeed at conveying genuine appreciation.

Genuine appreciation is heartfelt and sincere. Fake appreciation is easy to spot, and cultivates a level of distrust in the recipient that is hard to shed.  Appreciation in business requires constant opportunities for them to sample your character and competence to develop know, like and trust.

Appreciation has to focus on aspects other than those that benefit you. [tweet this]

You have to identify the personality traits that make working with a particular client pleasurable to you and praise that. It’s more like giving compliments, and you also don’t expect anything in return.

More than just appreciation

Even as you go about being appreciative to the people you interact with that make your business grow, you have to think continually of ways to make the customer experience better and easier. Make it easier for customers to transact with you through a number of ways, like having an easy-to-remember phone number, fast responses to email and social media queries, and easy to fill online forms.

Encourage customers to give feedback on what they liked and didn’t like about doing business with you. Customers have with them a wealth of knowledge that is useful in your efforts to improve your services and overall attitude.

Lastly, never forget to say “thank you.” Don’t just say it when customers purchase from you. Make appreciation a consistent theme in your work and life, and clients will take notice and want to associate with you. Happy customers will likely come back, and they’ll share their positive experiences with others, thus expanding your potential reach.

That’s something to be thankful for, isn’t it?

About the Author:

Maria Elena Duron is a Marketing Coach and Strategist with Know, Like, + Ignite and @mariaduron on Twitter. Would you like practical tips to create and curate content and experiences worthy of being passed person-to-person? –Get exclusive access.

Online Review Management: Fostering Feedback

Fostering Feedback

In a world where news is instantaneous and people all but expect reviews for every business they come across, it’s not too much of a stretch to tell you that your business needs testimonials to thrive. However, sometimes it seems only the angry customers are happy to provide feedback, leaving you with an unfair representation of your brand. It’s time to take to the offensive. Here are the proven best practices for inviting your customers to leave their two cents.

Give Them the Tools

Even when it comes to the internet, people are lazy. The more pages they have to visit, the less inclined they are to visit them. This is why having a review section directly on your site will greatly increase the chance your customers will respond. Be it a pop up during check out or a submit field in their email receipt, keep the process as hassle-free as is technologically possible.

Personalize Your Request

Chances are when a customer reaches out to you, they leave their name or some form of identification. Do not let this go to waste. Use their name to personalize your correspondence. The use of their first or last names immediately grabs their attention, increasing response rates by up to 10%.

Use Surveys

Surveys are great when you find yourself with a lack of customers filling out dauntingly empty textboxes. In the feedback world, surveys can be as long or as short as you need, helping incorporate feedback from those that don’t have the time necessary to form their own thoughts. It’s a simple gauge of their feelings on your brand. Then, after they’ve been warmed up with some easy questions, the feedback box at the end won’t seem so intimidating.

Keep it Simple

Some companies take the feedback option a bit too far. They’ll have an unobtrusive tab that opens up to a full page exam not even related to what the customer experienced. Nothing will turn away suggestion providers faster than a surprise, two-page feedback quiz. Remember, feedback is about small, specific moments. The simpler it is for them to fill out, the more likely they will.

Offer a ‘Thank You’ Gift

In the end, sometimes all it takes is a small token of gratitude to get your site decorated with testimonials. Coupons, free items and chances to win big prizes pull in reluctant supporters. Just remember to keep the reward value in line with the value the testimonial would have for your site. And, remember, you offer it for the review – good or bad.  It is not to serve as a “bribe” for a good review.

Start bringing in feedback now by actively pursuing your regular and new customers. You have to be proactive and take charge of your online review management.  It’s a part of your first impression and it’s lasting.  Without their words of approval, the rate of new business will remain slow and stagnant, never blooming into the growth you planned to see this quarter.