Networking is one of the most effective marketing and prospecting tools you can use to grow your business. Are you doing all you can to create and nurture your personal and professional relationships?
Here are a few tips to help cultivate new business:
- Prepare an elevator pitch. People often ask in casual conversation, “So, what do you do?” Be ready and able to concisely articulate what makes you – or your organization, product, service or idea – unique. A brief, but interesting “elevator pitch” may spark further discussion. You never know when a casual acquaintance may need the product your service your company offers.
- Periodically touch base. Put 30 minutes per week on your Outlook calendar to connect with people in your LinkedIn network. Drop them a quick note to say hello, find out what they are up to and see if there is anything you can do to help. Many people establish 500+ connections, but never reach out to any of them.
- Hold volunteer positions. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to organizations that have helped you. List the causes you care about and your volunteer work on LinkedIn. You may have common interests with a prospective client.
- Quickly follow up on referrals or leads. If you get a sales lead, pursue it right away and obviously mention who recommended you reach out. Your actions are a reflection on them. If you wait a week or two to connect, it may be too late. Referrals from satisfied customers are usually the easiest way to get your foot in the door, if you act quickly. Some special advertising programs also generate sales leads, but all too often, no one follows up on them.
- Engage at trade shows. Don’t just walk the show and drop off business cards. Develop a game plan with a targeted list of people or companies you’d like to connect with. Try to be friendly and approachable all day. Even someone you chat with over lunch or on the taxi line may turn out to be a valuable connection. I know someone who secured a new business meeting while washing his hands in the men’s room!
- Join and engage in online groups. As you know, LinkedIn groups are a great way to reach a highly-targeted audience. Most people join a dozen professional groups because it looks good on their profile, but rarely engage with them. Try once a month to visit your groups and respond to a few posts – or generate some of your own. Being active on LinkedIn will eventually bear fruit.
- Customize your LinkedIn messages. People respond more favorably to personal notes offering your help rather than to “pitch” letters promoting your company. LinkedIn users who have recently viewed your profile may also appreciate a short, personal message. For example, “I noticed that you recently viewed my profile. Is there anything I can do to help you? I see that you work at a pharmaceutical packaging company. I work at a marketing firm with a dozen clients in that industry. Maybe our firm can help supplement your current efforts. Would you like to connect?”
- Build a database. Keep a running list of potential new business leads – the more detailed, the better. Include name, title, company, contact info and any relevant details or notes for future use – personal follow up, direct mail, email, etc. With your follow-up letter or email, be sure to include a printed or digital brochure that could be easily passed along to other colleagues.
- Research and vet potential customers. Combing through trade pubs and trade show exhibitor guides can also help you build a list of valuable prospects. Then try using Google, LinkedIn and your ad reps to vet prospects and find the right person to contact. Learn as much as you can about the person or company before adding them to your list or reaching out.
- Send regular mail. If you see that someone has landed a new job or was recently promoted, you can say congratulations via LinkedIn or email, but consider popping a personal, handwritten note in the mail. These days, who gets regular mail? It will be remembered and appreciated. Holiday cards with a signature or small gifts with a personal note are also a good way to nurture a relationship. I once received a leather TCNJ keychain from a vendor who noticed on LinkedIn that I was a fellow alumni.
At Turchette, we take great pride in the relationships that we build with our clients. In fact, our #1 source for new business is referrals from existing (and former) clients. Our average client tenure is 15 years (5X the national average) and our team works tirelessly to integrate themselves into our clients’ sales environment. We attend their trade shows, read their media, engage with their sales teams and collaborate with their senior management. To learn why our relationships last so long and why our clients continue to dominate their markets, click here.