Supercharge Your Business Development
As a business owner, I understand the value that traditional networking and personal relationships bring to the business development process. No less than half of our new clients at Juicy Results come from referrals form current clients and others in my professional network. I’ve been at it for over ten years!
One thing I’ve noticed in others is how they subconsciously separate their networking efforts from any kind of Internet marketing activities we introduce them to. One exception to this is how quickly everybody is racing to Facebook and LinkedIn to grow their contact list. But, as an isolated tactic, this alone isn’t going to supercharge your business development efforts; just lightly compliment them.
I want to inspire you to use a number of Internet marketing methods to truly supercharge your business development and personal networking with this post.
Make sure you have something to say
First things first: successfully translating networking activity—such as conferences, events, groups and just sitting down for coffee—into real business requires you to have a clear and compelling message about what you do. We’ve all met too many lawyers, too many financial planners and even too many whatever-you-do to remember much about you after just one meeting. However, a clear, differentiated message about what you do and why I should care is your silver bullet in winning referrals from your network.
This is so important that if you do not have your message crystallized, spend time doing it now rather than reading the rest of this article!
When people find you online, you need to make sure your message is front and center. That means your website, LinkedIn profile (both yours and your company’s) and all other trails that lead to you should be clear, consistent, professional and focused. People will Google you, so make sure you know what the first page of Google looks like when you put your name or company name in the search engines.
You must be managing your reputation online.
Reinforce your position with helpful content
Just like in-person networking, you want to add value before you try to ask for value. You can provide value to your contacts with relevant information and answers to their problems. Useful introductions and recommendations are another great way to add value to your network—more on that later.
To use the strategies in this article you need compelling content about your product, service, destination, company or whatever you are selling. This blog post is an example of useful marketing content, as are social media posts, YouTube videos, newsletters, website content—it all counts. Engage the people who stumble upon your profile or website and show them how you can help them or why they should visit or contact you.
And trust me, creating compelling content that will win you new customers isn’t as hard as you think. You just have to start. This content will serve you in all your Internet marketing activity (search engine optimization, social media, email, etc) in addition to your personal networking efforts.
There is one shortcut: while custom content that is specific to your business will be the most effective, many of the following strategies can work with links to well-selected content on the web written by others. You probably already have a number of PDFs or blog posts that you can share with your potential customers. Use ‘em!
Now that your Internet presence is in shape and you’ve got some content to work with, let’s discuss a few ways to get your message in front of new potential clients and partners to generate some real business.
High impact follow ups
My favorite way to integrate Internet marketing with networking is with a high impact, helpful follow up after any meeting.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re an attorney who specializes in estate planning. You have a great networking meeting with a financial planner and discuss how you might refer business to each other. During the meeting process you naturally educate each other on your backgrounds, services and opportunities to introduce clients to each other. One thing you might mention is that a perfect referral for you is someone who is about to have their first child because this is the time people might reflect on their living will and other affairs. Pretty typical networking conversation.
But, imagine if your follow up email to this financial planner included a simple, well designed checklist in PDF format called “Five Easy and Important Things to Secure Your Children’s Future.” At the bottom, of course, is a short line about who you are along with your contact info. Of course, the checklist would mention a few things that would benefit from estate planning. That is a powerful tool to solidify the referral opportunity and enable that financial planner to refer you lots of business.
Once you begin writing blog posts regularly, you’ll find an abundance of opportunities to send a relevant and useful piece of information to new contacts.
This solidifies everything you told them in person and will dramatically increase the chances that the person will remember you when a need arises. This is crucial when you meet a dozen or more people at a networking event. Remember your discussions, and select the right information to send them. Make sure to add them on LinkedIn, and follow up a week later and ask if the information was helpful.
Targeting the right people
For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when you mention networking online is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great way to connect and stay in touch with your professional network, but it’s an even greater way to meet new contacts online.
If you have a very specific client based on age, industry, position or location, you should take a look at the premium targeting tools on LinkedIn. You can generate lists of contacts and reach out. Notice that I say “reach out” and not spam—it’s an important differentiation.
Many times in business we’re looking for a specific business partnership with a key supplier, client, potential employer or employee. There is a good chance whomever you want to meet is on LinkedIn. Find that person’s profile via the search box and find your shared connections. You’re looking for a personal introduction here, by seeing who he/she knows that you may be able to contact via your network. This is a real life version of the Kevin Bacon game, but it works.
I like to write a very concise paragraph about why I need to meet this person and what I am hoping to accomplish. Keep that goal small, favoring a quick call or an email address over mentioning that you want them to hire you or do business with you. This makes it easy for your mutual contact to simply forward along that note with the introduction.
This potential contact will likely Google you or at least check out your profile, so be sure that you’ve done the above homework first!
After you finally get in touch with your target, remember to make a high impact follow up and add them directly to your network.
Imagine if you did this once per week? You’d develop a very powerful network of your own in no time.
Attracting the right people en masse
Attracting perfect customers online is all about content and, fortunately, you now have that. When people are searching for solutions to their problems or are interested in new things, they are hungry for information. They want to see photos and read reviews of that new restaurant in town before visiting or they want to see how an attorney might handle their business contract dispute before calling her.
When you think about it, this is what made the web so powerful in the early days. You could think of something to do or buy at 2am in the morning, log on and learn all about it (remember “logging on?”). This kind of instant access is something we completely take for granted today, but it’s center to the search process.
Remember that people use the Internet AND their personal and professional networks to find answers to their problems. Make sure all of these paths lead to you!
This is why you are going to spend time creating articles, videos and worksheets for potential customers. Then you’re going to broadcast them on your social media channels, in your newsletter and on your website. Make sure your family, friends, associates and networking partners are aware of this information, and ask them to share it as well. If it’s quality stuff, they’ll be proud to do so.
Occasionally, you may even post some of this professional content on your personal Facebook page to remind your friends and family what you do.
Remember to be strategic about what you share; it should be valuable to others and reinforce your areas of expertise. Nobody likes spam or noise.
If you do this consistently over time I guarantee perfect clients will find their way to your front door.
Adding value to your network
The result of your networking activity will be a large audience, each of which is an opportunity to connect on any given day. Review your LinkedIn or Facebook (or internal CRM) on a regular basis—daily if possible—and find someone you haven’t connected with in a while. Ask yourself: How can I help this person today? Have you met someone recently whom you can refer to them? Maybe you can surprise this person by leaving a nice recommendation on their LinkedIn account or make a public Facebook update letting everyone know about their product or service. Trust me, this is a powerful gesture when it comes out of the blue and is sure to reengage that contact!
Starting today, review your list regularly and find long lost contacts to introduce to others, give business to or promote.
The exciting and tricky thing about marketing is that you never know when someone can use your product service. It may be today, next week or seven years from now. This is why consistent, quality and regular contact with your network is important. The Internet has made this easier than ever. Here are ways to keep your message in front of your network:
- Email newsletter
- Facebook fan page and account
- LinkedIn updates
- Press releases
You’re looking for the sweet spot: stay top of mind, but don’t over expose your network to the point where they tune you out. Find new and compelling ways to package your message.
Hopefully this article has inspired a mindset of blending your personal networking efforts with your Internet marketing. Here’s your action plan:
1) Crystallize your marketing message. Who are you, what do you do, who can you help and what is unique about you?
2) Standardize your web presence with that message.
3) Create or identify useful and relevant content for your market related to what you do.
4) Build your network online.
5) Get your network involved and share that valuable content.
6) Make meaningful connections with those contacts via phone or in-person and use high impact follow ups.
7) Reengage with long lost contacts regularly.
8) Stay in front of your network and keep your message front and center.
Let us know if you have additional networking ideas in the comments below.