Growing a small business is dependent on both the quantity and quality of your connections. Do you know how to best manage these success drivers?
It’s not about who you are but who you know
Once upon a time business was all about competition, prestige and media presence. Business owners kept a close eye on their competitors and invested large budgets in their image and their promotion, through PR and advertising.
These days, collaboration, endorsements and referrals have become the keys to lasting success in business – fuelled by the always-on stream of reviews provided by our social media and by the growing number of online product comparison platforms.
This is even more true for entrepreneurs at the early days of their business venture. In this case, it’s absolutely crucial to seek out others who can support, promote and recommend YOU on a professional and personal level, as the owner of your small business.
Can you relate to this scenario? Are you an entrepreneur who has recently started a business? maybe you’ve already set up a website and some social media presence but are still trying to work out how to build your stable client base?
If you are facing this type of challenge, I offer you a little advice here.
How to leverage connections to break into the market
If you are an entrepreneur at the early days of setting up a new business, there are 3 strategic moves you should make if you want to enter your market the smart way – not the “hard” way. Here they are.
1- Seize every networking opportunity you can
As soon as your business name is out there in the public, you need to put yourself out there on all online channels relevant to your field and engage with those who already know what you need to learn within your sector.
Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with people who at first you may consider your “competitors”: sometimes these connections develop into strong partnerships or lead to the creation of new joint ventures down the line.
Everything that is reciprocal is good for everyone. Both paying it forward AND paying it back become very useful strategies.
Building, nurturing, and engaging with valuable individuals to promote you and your business can also be fun! If you seek out others with common interests and perspectives in alignment with yours, you could also find friends for life!
Bear in mind that not everyone will be ready RIGHT NOW to work with you. But if you nurture the relationship in an effective way, when the time IS right, everything will fall into place.
But what’s even more exciting is that it’s not just about who YOU know, it’s about who THEY know, and then who THEY know!
2- Maximise personal recommendations from day 1
For a business at the early stages of launch, it’s become very difficult to make advertising work effectively within a low budget, even online.
You’ll find many social media gurus who will tell you that you can run Facebook ads for as little as $1000 per month, but if you just started a new business, it’s going to take some time to reach that investment level threshold. It’s been proved that you only have 6 seconds to get someone’s attention in an online ad, and after 6 seconds, if you’re not resonating with them instantly, they’re gone.
On the contrary, personal recommendation never gets old, tired or ineffective.
Personal experience – even the experience of strangers – is more believable and persuasive when it comes to choosing a product or service that is not a commodity and is largely evaluated through qualitative metrics.
At inception stage, as an entrepreneur you will have done a benchmark research in your market. You’ll have identified the 3 to 5 Key Quality Indicators for your product or service and have built your value proposition and business model around those. Hint: if you didn’t do this, you are still on time to take a step back and re-assess your marketing strategy.
From your launch stage through to the first 3 months in-market, you need to have built in the model some form of feedback capture mechanism or a referral system. You may get a few personal recommendations spontaneously but you’ll increase your numbers if you build an incentivised base of (written or video) testimonials or long-form Case Studies that you can display publicly to new potential clients.
3- Nurture human-to-human connections that last
All entrepreneurs are personable at some level. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have the outgoing personality of a Richard Branson. Many successful business owners are introverted, but when they connect, they connect very well with others.
The common trait is that they are all great listeners. To maximise this personal soft skill, you need to be able to receive, understand, remember and evaluate the information you receive from your (potential) clients effectively.
If you are in a service-based business, you also need to continuously grow your emphatic listening skill: the ability to “read people” and therefore respond to them in the appropriate way relevant to the context.
You don’t have to be a trained and qualified Coach like me to excel at this but you need to be conscious that in all businesses the “human touch” is what makes the difference in either converting a customer lead into a customer or retaining a client.
This is why even in product-based businesses, the quality of their Customer Service is the key differentiating factor in repeat purchase choice.
The bottom line is: the human factor is what makes people choose and stick to a specific service provider.
How to turn your customers into clients
Smart business owners recognize that long-term success depends on repeat business. Instead of moving from transaction to transaction (i.e. focusing on gaining new “customers”), you should focus on building a stable base of “clients” within the first 6 months from starting your business.
What’s the difference? Clients are people you have built a relationship with and who will recommend you or your brand to other people, besides coming back for additional purchases.
It’s generally much easier, and less costly, to keep an existing customer than to find a new one. Hence, one of the key success metrics you should look to measure in your business is Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): the total amount of money a customer is expected to spend in your business during their lifetime. This is a more effective performance indicator than Volume of New Customers.
With more time, you’ll reach a stage when you can invest in a CRM or a sales pipeline management online tool to systemise your sales analytics and predictive sales strategies.
So how can you convince prospects that your business is the right choice when no one knows your products or services yet?
Here are 3 simple yet effective tactics.
1- Give extra-ordinary value
Stop pitching your products or services and start helping the people in your target audience to address whatever pain points your business helps to resolve.
Use your personal or your business’ expertise to demonstrate exactly how those pains will be softened or removed.
2- Over-deliver: provide more than the client expects
Know, understand, respect and appreciate the needs of your clients, and meet those needs every time. Your client base should grow as you develop more and more satisfied customers.
3- Offer highly tailored incentives
Demonstrate your concern for client care by offering regular incentives to keep clients coming back to you. Find the formula thar resonates with your audience: e.g. special events, free consultations, relevant tutorials and seasonal sales – all of these can be effective ways to engage and retain prospects and leads.
4- Bonus tip for one-man band businesses: invest in YOUR growth
Remember that YOU are responsible for leading the direction of your business, so make sure that you two are growing together. As an entrepreneur, the more you learn personally, the more your business capabilities will expand. With some effective marketing planning, you’ll soon be able to hire new staff, reach a broader target audience and upscale your model.
And if you need some help for YOUR personal or YOUR BUSINESS growth, you know where to find me.