The web has become an everyday part of business and life, making personal and professional relationships overlap like no time since (I know….that is such an understatement but it stay with me, it gets better!).
Yes, the Internet has changed our lives and shifted consumer expectations in radical ways. In fact, people won’t even do business unless they feel as though they know, like and trust the business first. From a business perspective, choosing the right people to connect with on both a personal and professional level makes all the difference.
Like most of you, I could see pretty early on how the advance of the Internet was changing the entire game for business–small and large. Consumers were no longer left to choose from the just the handful of companies who would advertise in print, on television and radio, newspapers, magazines, and billboards. We’ve gained easy access to recommendations from our friends and trusted connections, along with the familiarity and reputation companies cultivate with us through their social media channels and websites. We have a lot of options!
We can vet ten different companies in one hour, and spend weeks getting to know about a company, their people, products, and services before deciding whether or not to make a purchase. Once we do, we can write a positive or negative review about our experience right from our phones or desktops, decide whether (or not) we’ll be a repeat customer, and whether or not we’ll recommend the company to our friends and connections.
As I’ve gained an understanding of these fundamental online realities as a consumer myself, I’ve come to recognize how my ability to create relationships with the right people for my business (and life)–or not–will directly impact whether or not I’ll still be in business next year.
Effective marketing has to start with relationships first, and sales second. I’m sure there are some multi-billionaires sitting up in their offices who would disagree with this approach, but the Internet has changed everything. In my opinion, businesses that won’t make the effort to build a solid foundation based on good relationships are going to lose out to businesses that will.
Building great relationships with the right people for business and life isn’t very difficult–especially with social media at our fingertips. I can apply the same principles I use to build good relationships in my personal life to my business relationships. Reading classics like The Friendship Factor by Alan Loy McGinnis and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie helped me learn effective ways to build great relationships (and I would recommend them to anyone who wants to learn more on the topic).
What do business relationships have to do with those in your personal life? The Internet first blurred, and then pretty much obliterated the divide between business and life–at least as far as one’s online presence is concerned. I know some people work hard to keep them separate, and I can understand where they’re coming from, but it’s not as easy as it used to be. It also begs the question, “why?” If your business is just a numbers game and not built on lasting relationships, then it makes sense. Otherwise, keeping them separate makes a lot less sense.
My friends have come from both my personal and business life because I’m building my business foundation on relationships. In my opinion, we need that relationship foundation if we want to stay in business. So my values in life and business have to align–if they don’t, why am I doing it?
I’ve met some of my very favorite people and dearest friends through my business–it’s a natural result of speaking to the people who are right (a good fit) for my business and life. I’ve been able to identify the right people by examining my personal and business values, and what I have to offer through my business as it relates to the:
- people I serve (customers/clients),
- people I want to strategic partner with (those with complementary values, and products and/or services),
- people I admire/want to learn from, and
- people I can give of myself to (those I can help, mentor, or teach).
You can do the same thing by making a list and starting to develop relationships with your people. It’s easy to do online and offline–and it’s fun and rewarding at once.
Here’s some ideas to get you started:
Find out where they spend time online and interact with them. Comment on their blogs and social media posts. Share their content whenever it makes sense for your audience. Endorse their products and services if you’ve had a great experience with them. Interview them. Spotlight them. If you read their book, write a review on Amazon and share it with your network. You get the idea…
Take the opportunity to meet with clients and connections in person when possible. When you travel for business, see if someone in your network lives in that city and reach out to them to see if you can treat them to lunch or coffee. Attend their workshops, events, and seminars. Take notes and pictures and share them with your audience if the subject matter is relevant (and it naturally will be, because your business and life values align, right?).
Learn quirky things about them, and take the opportunity to make them feel special in creative ways. I have a friend (I met online) who I ended up hiring. She learned I’m an Outlander fan, and posted a happy birthday song video from one of the actors on my Facebook page for my birthday. I happen to know how much she loves cats (as do I…but that’s another post), so I share cat videos and memes with her when an especially good one catches my attention.
You can do unexpected things like sending thank you notes or just a silly note or card every now and then to let people know you’re thinking of them and they’re important enough for you to take the time to send something to them out of the blue. One time, I had local (to him) organic green juice delivered to a friend I knew was home sick–gestures like that build solid relationships. People know they matter (it’s what every person wants to know!). The more you know about your right people, the more creative the ideas you’ll come up with.
Make sure people in your network feel heard. Never let a comment to your post, newsletter, or social media share go without a response. As Gini Deitrich said in a recent interview, “People just want to be heard.”
It’s true for all of us. No one likes the way it feels to take the time to comment and not get a response. Make sure you don’t let that happen to the people kind enough to notice you–those are your right people–you’ve resonated with them. How can you reciprocate?
Be as generous as you can with your knowledge and time. Answer questions on forums or LinkedIn groups, provide an internship to someone who wants to learn from you, and encourage people you know who are just starting out. Give others the guidance and encouragement you needed when you were just getting started.
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about how to find and connect with the right people for your business and life. Share your ideas in the comments and let’s use this page as a spot to come back to when we need idea inspiration.
For added peace-of-mind and happiness, align your personal and business values. For added business profitability and longevity, build a solid foundation of relationships with the right people on and offline. For added personal well-being, have fun. People (relationships) are where it’s at in business and life–how terrific is that?
All the exciting, interesting, and inspiring people you could ever want to meet are accessible right here online! Do your work, but don’t forget the relationships, and enjoy the process of finding the right ones to support you as you support those you serve.
P.S. If you like this post, you’ll love this one: How to be Awesome on the Internet: A Conversation with Sarah Von Bargen