When it comes to starting a successful business, many believe in the old adage: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” There is some truth to this, networking is essential to building a stronger business, but it isn’t enough to just know people, they need to talk about you too. At a recent workshop, Barbara Caine gave some advice to help turn friends, family, and past clients into paying customers and raving fans for your business.
The first step Barbara suggests is to make what she calls a 250 x 250 list, a list of 250 people that you know. Just think of as many names as you can, it’s okay if you aren’t close to everyone on your list. Once you finish your list, organize everyone into four categories:
• Group A – People who have already worked with you, have paid for your services or actively promote your business.
• Group B – People you’re at least 80% sure would pay for your services or promote your business if you talked to them about it.
• Group C – People you aren’t sure if they would be interested in your services or promoting you because you don’t know them very well.
• Group D – People who won’t or can’t buy from you or help you, no matter what. Each of these groups require different levels of attention and engagement.
The people in Group A are your best customers and advocates, so it pays to keep in touch with them: you have to appreciate your fans to keep them engaged, after all. Send the people in Group A at least one message once a week: it doesn’t have to be in-depth, it could be a letter, a text, an email, a Facebook message or a comment on one of their posts online. You should also send them well wishes on their birthdays and anniversaries.
Group B requires a bit more work, as you need to build your still buidling these relationships. Barbara recommends that you start an email list where you can keep everyone in Group A and B informed about you and your business. Be sure to ask them before adding them though: no one likes getting spam. You should also try to send the people in Group B something via snail every month. The hand-written letter is a dying art, so yours will stand out as something special. These shouldn’t just be business letters either: send holiday greeting cards, or something that appeals to their hobbies and personal interests.
With Group C, the key goal here is to identify the people who you think you could convert to Group B. Barbara suggests that you should make a goal, be it every day, week, or month, and have a one-on-one conversation with someone in your Group C. Don’t just try to sell them your services, make an honest effort to get to know them better. By the end of your conversation you can ask them if you can add them to your email list, but don’t be too “salesy,” or they’ll find you insincere.
As for Group D, the important thing to remember is that while the people in this group might not be willing or able to help you or your business, they probably know people who could. Once per quarter, look everyone in Group D and think about who they know that may have need of your services. Then look for opportunities to get to meet these people: introduce yourself at a party, send a friend request on social media noting your mutual friends, etc.
The important thing to keep in mind here is that you aren’t just grooming potential customers, you are building relationships and strengthening the bonds between you and your network. And in the process, you will find the people who are your most valuable advocates for you and your business.