Times change but the importance of building relationships does not. Before social media and smartphones, people spent an ample amount of time doing business over the phone. I spent hours and hours on the phone when I was in radio, forming relationships with people that could either help us get guests on shows or would be great guests themselves. Eventually, technology had altered that dynamic and the phone call had become less important. There were so many ways to build relationships without having to actually call people on the phone.
Well, we live in a new era of social distancing: no live conferences, no live networking events and no large-scale social gatherings, never mind taking a client out to dinner. This will all loosen up in the future, but the question is, will it ever be the same? So, it’s important to pivot in regard to building business relationships, rather than easing up. Those who find ways to keep in contact with others will soar past those who do not adapt to the new work environment.
The key is building relationships and even though taking a client or partner to a ball game is not currently possible, there are still ways to build unbreakable relationships for business. Please find below my Five to Keep Relationships Alive:
1. Be Smart With Your Phone: Ok, I know many hate talking on the phone, but the ability to do that does exist on your smartphone. It’s important not to just rely on texting, snapping and DM-ing folks to stay connected. You are constantly hitting up your friends and buddies, but the same old people you’re comfortable with are not going to extend your network, and if you are not out meeting people, how are you expanding your business?
Try this: Make a list of people that you have met that you haven’t spoken to in a while. Past contacts, colleagues, business partners and clients. Take that list and send them a note in their preferred manner. Some respond to texts, others emails, many DM’s, whatever they are more apt to respond to, hit them up with a note, checking in on them; “Hey, it’s been a while, I hope your family is doing well and are safe and healthy,” or “I was thinking of you when I saw this meme/article/joke.” In your words, the way you would talk to people, send them notes to get the ball rolling. Hopefully everyone responds in one way or another, but there will be some folks who’ll want to catch up and find out more of what is going on in your life. This is your goal, to catch up. That catching up should lead to new information and hopefully aspects that could help you in business. That catch up session should be a call or video conference and not just words in text. Begin to authentically rebuild that relationship with listening to the inflections in their voice or watching their facial expressions. This will provide a more accurate narrative than text alone.
2) Zoom Network Gatherings: Zoom has exploded during the Covid era and the lack of human interaction has led people to be more willing to do video conferencing. Many have adopted this for interaction with employees and clients, but you shouldn’t stop there. Organize networking events with specific themes, where your contacts invite their contacts and you have a discussion about the area of interest and how you can help each other out. In a time of crisis, people are more apt to lend a helping hand. Get together with people in a networking Zoom and try to help people out. I know you’re doing it with your buddies and having social drinks every week. That’s great and fun and keep doing that, but now also do it for business purposes. Find reasons to organize groups of people who don’t know each other and see if there are opportunities to work together. You’ve got lots of time on your hands, so what do you have to lose by branching out?
3) Virtual Team Building: There are many companies using video conferencing to get work done, but don’t forget that the social aspect of the office place has been removed from the mix, and just because you don’t have a common office, doesn’t mean you need to throw culture out the window. So have get-togethers with your co-workers to keep the culture alive. We have company gatherings with the Tentacle team every other Wednesday, where we catch up, have drinks, play games and trivia, music, etc. One gathering we played Hollywood Squares where a team member would get an X or an O for answering questions incorrectly or correctly and based on where they were in the Zoom grid played Tic Tac Toe. So, regardless of distance, keep the company culture alive.
4) Virtual Sharing: When you are with someone in person you tell stories and talk about TV shows you are watching, but the lack of interaction in the same location probably is curbing that type of banter with business associates and left to more personal relationships. I understand the nature of migrating to the personal relationship from a comfort level perspective, but, including business associates with appropriate shares should not cease to exist. When you read an article, see a funny and apropos meme, or there is something that fits with sharing with a business associate, make sure you widen your circle and find reasons for people to think of you and want to reciprocate. The more you become part of their thought process, the better the chance to build upon the relationship and have them think of you for new business.
5) More Posting: When it comes to social media, your efforts should not be purely personal. The Covid era hasn’t changed how you should utilize social media, but it has caused it to be more essential in displaying your brand to the masses. Social media is a tool to expand your business network, not just a means to satisfy your ego, so use it to your advantage and maximize your exposure. Twenty-somethings may scold you for posting too much or using hashtags. Well, they have a point when you are posting selfies in bathing suits. Where it might be “thirsty” to add hashtags to posts like that, it is strategic to add hashtags to business posts and posts that support your brand. Hashtags are meant to expand your network in a particular topic of expertise, so use them and do so with precision.
You need to have a plan with social media. Every platform should serve a purpose for you and you need to be in front of people with a message that reinforces your brand. It is a marketing tool to let people see more about you, like you are having a conversation with folks and telling them a story about yourself. Tell a story that you want to resonate with people, so they will think of you at the right time, for the right purpose. Everyone has a brand, and it is important to stay on point to reinforce what you stand for in an authentic way.
Additionally, liking and commenting on others’ posts can eat up some time in your day, however, it is a great way to keep them thinking of you. Be encouraging and remember that old saying, “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Like most of the stuff I write, nothing here is earth-shattering, I have not uncovered some ancient secret and there is no magic wand to offer you new business relationships. However, if you pay attention, follow these principles and put a dedicated effort into building relationships in these virtual ways, you will find that you do not need to lose ground during these shelter-in-place days and as we proceed with the new normal in the Covid era you can build your network and your potential for new business opportunities.