When we set out to grow our businesses, whether we want to admit it or not, we want to see immediate results. We can't help it. It's in our nature as humans to prefer the non-delayed-gratification option. Wouldn't you like it if you just mailed out some postcards and three days later your phone started ringing off the hook? Alas, those of us that have owned businesses for any significant amount of time understand that that's just not how the world works. Instead, it is our job as business owners to reach out, advertise, market, post on Facebook, sell, and cold call until we finally get a nibble, a lead, and then a bite.
Owning a business is HARD WORK. There's just no two ways about it. The truth of the matter is that it is all long term. There are few quick fixes and even fewer ways to legitimately make millions overnight. Building a business involves planning, testing, failing, and, most importantly, building relationships.
Let's take a step back. Who do you prefer to do business with? Someone in your circle, right? If you had to choose between Sally over at Cuts-for-Less or your friend Rita (who actually charges 5x more), you're probably going to pick Rita. Who do you trust - the silly Geico gecko or your mom's insurance agent that you adopted about 5 years ago? I'm betting you don't choose the lizard.
The point is, we as humans prefer to build our lives with things that make us comfortable - and this includes people. When we build trust with someone, we are more willing to take their advice, let them sell us something, and even maybe change our habits and routine.
The list of reasons to build as many good relationships as possible for your business is nearly endless. Referrals, repeat business, ease of upsell - you get the picture. But, as with everything in business, relationship building can be HARD. After all, one of the key elements is time, which in your life is your most precious commodity. So what are some options and ways to build relationships that are more, well, economical?
1) Social media
These days, it always seems to come back to social media, doesn't it? And why not? Social media is basically free and you are on it all the time, anyways. Now, don't be spammy - don't spend your days adding friends on Facebook until you reach the max 5K and then think you are done. Instead, post regularly. Talk about your daily life (don't be creepy). Give people a glimpse into what it means to be you. Then, on the flip side, engage with others. Comment on their posts. React to their photos. The more you engage, the more you will show up in their news feeds and the more they will think about you.
2) Networking events
Once a week or month, hit up a local networking group. Try a few out until you find one with a good vibe. You never know who is going to show up at these events, but even more important, when people start seeing you consistently, they will start REFERRING YOU. That is the whole point of the group - to build business. Take advantage of it. Refer people to the folks in the group and you will build a loyalty to you that can't be broken. Win-win.
3) Social events
You have to get out sometimes, right? Next time you are at your spouse's office's Christmas/Halloween/Memorial Day/whatever party, don't just stand in the corner and eat shrimp cocktail! Let her/him introduce you around. Most of these people already know OF you, but if they can put a face and personality to a story, they will remember you! This applies to any other social gathering you are invited to. Meet people and make sure you let them know what you do for a living (in a non-sales-y kind of way).
Love them or leave them, they are your family. That means while you probably don't want to do business with them, they are built-in cheerleaders and advocates for your brand. What are the chances your second cousins don't even know what you do? Pretty high, right? Get the word out!
Your church is a GREAT place to build relationships. You are all there for a similar purpose and you will be there once or more a week anyways. It is very important to not try to sell at church - its super inappropriate. But, as you get to know others in your church family, you will each get to know more about the other's personal life. At church, we have a tendency to sit in the same spot, talk to the same people, and attend the same service. Shake it up occasionally. Again, everyone is there for the same purpose and (almost) everyone is friendly.
6) Daily life
How many times a day do you have the opportunity to actually interact with another human being? Probably about a hundred times more than you actually do. Do you wear a name tag or some other brand identifier? You should. You never know when the cashier you see at Weigel's every morning will have a need for your service. Make conversation, be friendly, don't cut people off, you know, just try to be a decent human being.
7) Email marketing
Email marketing is both highly underutilized and mis-utilized. First, most people just aren't using it. It can take a little bit of work to start building an email database, but when you do, it is a great way to stay top of mind. Second, many that DO use email marketing are doing it poorly. No one likes being spammed, yet you see your inbox flooded up to 3 times in a single day from the same sender. The correct way to use email marketing? Consistently without being annoying. Once a week, once a quarter, once a month, etc. The frequency will depend on your business and how often you need to communicate, but there are very few businesses that can justify sending something every day. This is just a great way to get yourself unsubscribed. When done properly, you will build authority in your field, trust in your resourcefulness, and interest in your product.
This is another highly underutilized tactic. Choose an area - preferably somewhere you are highly familiar with. In this area you will find a number of ways to reach out and touch the residents so that they understand you are the authority in this area. Many businesses keep it simple and just sent postcards. If you send them consistently, the residents will get used to your name and will think of you when they think of your product. You can have fun with it, too. Throw a party. Give out prizes. Have a raffle. The key is to be in the community - if you can get yourself INVOLVED in the community, you will really stand out.
Long story short, you need to be building relationships for the health of your business. Every person you meet could end up being a customer or could refer a customer to you. The key to this is to ensure you don't lead with what you sell. People can smell a phony from a mile away. Get to know people, do the right thing, be a decent human being, and your hard work will pay off.