“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” or so the old cliché goes. Although this isn’t entirely true, there is a measure of truth in the saying. The right relationships can allow you to get your foot in the door, but then you have to earn the right to stay. For business owners the right relationships can add tremendous value to your business. Relationships are often the basis for business in the first place, and they can lead to joint venture opportunities, strategic alliances, and referrals. Let’s look at how to cultivate relationships that add value to your business, whether your business is a service performed locally or a product sold online.
The foundation of a long-term relationship is reciprocity. In other words giving value to the other person (party) is what keeps the relationship alive over time. If the value flows only one way, the relationship is doomed to a short life-span. This means that if you want to cultivate high-value relationships, you must consistently provide high value in your relationships. Let’s build on this foundation by examining what it looks like in action.
Relationships are often seen as the life-blood of local businesses and rightfully so. Cultivating relationships in a local business involves in-person networking. Networking the right way is not about giving your sales pitch to everybody who’ll listen or passing out your card to everything with a heartbeat. Networking the right way is about getting to know people and looking for ways that you can enrich and add value to them. If you are consciously looking for ways to help others, the law of reciprocity dictates that others will do the same for you. The results here don’t always happen overnight, so this is really about a long-term commitment on your part to consistently make this a part of your business. If you do, you’ll be richly rewarded with great opportunities for strategic alliances, joint ventures, word-of-mouth referrals, etc.
Relationships can play a huge role in the life and success level of online businesses too. Cultivating relationships in an online business frequently centers around strengthening the relationship with the customer. There are a variety of ways to do this – and no, it’s not about cutting prices. (Cutting prices produces a loyalty not to the business or the service, but to the price. Don’t try to compete with WalMart on price unless you can match their economies of scale.) Building bonds with your customers is about serving them in such a way that they become devoted to you and highly recommend you to their friends. Social Media makes it easy for a single customer’s comments to be seen and influence a very large network of people. When focusing on building this relationship, know that the result of any one action on your part may be small, but that the cumulative impact will be tremendous.
Staying in touch
Regardless of whether you’re in a local business or an online business, part of building relationships is staying in touch. The last place you want to be is out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Email is a great tool for staying in touch that works equally well whether you’re building relationships across town, across the country, or around the globe. Sending a personal email is great, but that can only be done on a very small scale. To do this on a larger scale you need a great email marketing system to get the best results.
Looking for ways to add value to those around and then staying in touch with them is a sure-fire method for building the kind of relationships that add value to your business. The results will come not only in the form of word of mouth referrals, but also new business opportunities. This activity produces one of the highest returns on your investment of time and money that you can achieve in your business.