Creating authentic business relationships that matter, are rarely fostered from within the bounds of social media. The kind of business relationships that morph into personal friendships, growth as a human being, and – wait for it – maybe a mutually beneficial financial transaction, flourish when you have a keen eye for observing the smallest details. As small business owners and entrepreneurs, our passion to meet the needs of our clients should drive us to achieve such a status.
Not unlike the relationship with our life partner, business relationships can come to an unfortunate end. Whether this is with a business partner, close client or a vendor, loyalty can turn treacherous and trust can be broken. Owning a small business is difficult. Your commitment to a project, the needs of a client and the fulfillment of your team’s personal dreams can be overwhelming at times.
To make matters worse, when a business relationship goes bad it takes a toll on your heart, soul and sweat equity. When your motives are questioned – it hurts. How could you be let down when, in the past, it was so great? How can high-fives turn into betrayal?
Wearing a facade of personal armor does not make us mentally strong. Small business owners are often full of self-doubt. They are the idea incubator, production supervisor and accountant. They can feel their pulse with every move the business makes. It races with excitement, it occasionally skips a beat. This roller-coaster can bring doubt to many. Some go on the attack to solve problems. Some accept problems as a personal challenge. Like this random paragraph, some will think you are crazy for all the thoughts you have.
For months on end I’ve had my doubts
Denying every tear
I wish this would be over now
But I know that I still need you here
Those that choose to blaze a trail alone are often times mocked. Many who sit in the comfort of their cubicle, enjoying a steady paycheck will call you crazy. It is as if they believe you do not understand the risks being taken. But you know what you are capable of and you know your limits. You’ve kept an inventory of mistakes you’ve made in the past, so they won’t be repeated. You hold yourself to a higher standard than any boss could or would.
You say I’m crazy
‘Cause you don’t think I know what you’ve done
But when you call me baby
I know I’m not the only one
Of course we all know that healthy business relationships are the key to future offers and consulting contracts. However, too many of us do not think strategically when working to make connections. We know we have to turn names into contacts, but we don’t think about it with any depth.
What can we learn from small business history? Let’s examine life before social media, when a good handshake spoke volumes.
Look beyond the social wall. Titles and salaries are what we earn. Who we are is what we do with the earnings. Our families, our vacation choices, our benevolent actions and the pictures we publicize are evidence of the things we love. Taking special stock of your partner’s life choices, commenting on them with genuine interest is a demonstration of true affection. Great customers appreciate professionals who operate with moral character and show great attention to detail, without these your business will ultimately fail. Maybe not right away, but eventually, just like with any relationship, people will see through the smoke and mirrors to the real you.
Posting is not a conversation. Interacting on social media does not make a friendship. That is not a way to stay in tune with those you are connected to. It is a mass media broadcast. It has its place, but so does a one-on-one conversation over the phone or in person. Making time for individual verbal conversations is necessary in creating a personal networking touch that relates to the client in an authentic way. This is what draws us all closer.
Flirting and collecting connections. Asking to be friends on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn is self-serving. It is not genuine networking. Collecting superfluous contacts with those you do not know will not move business to the bottom of your funnel. Engaging them personally through such media will. Taking an interest in their needs by adding comments to their posts will.
Today’s little black book. Whatever CRM or contact tool you use needs to allow for personal tags. Go beyond industry, go beyond their profession – take note of their personal interests. When the opportunity presents itself, you should be able to use your tool of choice to stay in touch. Say you are a Yankees fan and your prospect is a Red Sox fan – talk about contentious – when in Boston invite them to watch the game together. Even if you broadcast that invitation to just 100 people – you will be memorable.
I have loved you for many years
Maybe I am just not enough
You’ve made me realize my deepest fear
By lying and tearing us up
To be social does not mean to be shallow. Your partners in business (equity, staff, and clients) deserve to know you. The real you! Social media is a great tool. It is also a tool that can add to your audience’s fear of working with you, even if not warranted. As unfair as it may seem, your client’s perception of the posts you make, is the reality in which they measure future business transactions with you -or dare I say it – someone else. Taking time to invest in the lives of your clients will ultimately make your rise above when the pressure comes. Because you see them as real people, with genuine needs (not just as dollar signs), the potential for a continuing successful business partnerships will be highly probable.
Copyright 2015 Viral Solutions LLC
by Thomas von Ahn | Chief Elephant Slayer