Personal networking: Is it time to step out from behind your desk?
If you believe business is built on relationships, then you need to make personal networking and the building of relationships your business.
I wasn’t born a people person.
In fact, I’ve always had a tendency to overlook the human element in situations where it was vitally important. Nowhere has this tendency caused more trouble for me than in starting and running my business.
When I started two years ago, it was with the quaint notion that I could build a successful business from behind my desk. I thought that by simply delivering top-quality outcomes, and by promoting our services through clever blog posts and top-down social media channels such as Twitter, I would somehow earn my rightful place at the top of the heap, and that endless opportunities would come my way.
Boy, was I wrong.
Looking back on it, I can see where a simple, honest assumption (that business can be won by providing superior service or product), led me wrong. It’s not that that isn’t true, of course, it’s just not the whole story.
If there’s one thing running a business has done for me over the years, it’s taught me the importance of connecting on a human level with as many people as possible. This is why the words of Bryan Kramer ring true “There is no more B2B or B2C. It’s H2H: Human to Human.”
"I focused purely on building a strong social media presence and blogging consistently. Surely this would bring in business, right?"
Our business isn’t an automated carwash. We’ve never succeeded with large volumes and high churn rates among our clients. Instead, as I discovered fairly early on, the only real success we’ve ever had has come from working closely with long-term clients who trust us implicitly.
Stable relationships like that have always been the most rewarding for us, and unfortunately those are exactly the kind of relationships it’s impossible to cultivate without first establishing personal bonds with people who are in a position to work with you.
Change of direction
Thankfully, it didn’t take long – well, not too long – for me to realise that even if I was offering the best service on the market, I was still going to be left behind by my competitors who were out in the world, making valuable connections, while I was updating my business’s Facebook status from behind four walls.
The big change came in stages, and we saw positive results at every step, as if the market was gently trying to coax me out of my shell and learn to work with people.
First, I subtly changed my approach to social media marketing. In the beginning, I had naively used LinkedIn and Twitter to push content into the world, simply trusting that it would find its mark like a homing pigeon. Now, I used these platforms the way they were always meant to be used – for personal networking to broaden my professional circles and surround myself with people who actually wanted to see my content.
Suddenly, instead of casting my work out the window and rarely seeing a result, I was able to hand- deliver it to the people most likely to engage. My next big shift was to physically leave my tastefully decorated office and start meeting actual human people face to face. This was rough at first – I find it hard to power through conversations when they develop glitches – but I gradually got the hang of it.
Industry events are great opportunities to try this approach. Not only can you learn exciting new skills and keep up on the latest industry news, but trade events put you in the same room with some of the sharpest people in your industry. Getting to know these thought leaders is more important for your business than in renting office space or designing business cards. Time after time, some of our most productive clients have been referred to us by somebody I met at a conference.
The hardest lesson I’ve ever been taught is that skill, hard work, and dedication aren’t enough to succeed in business. While I couldn’t have gotten very far without those things, I would never have gotten the chance to use them if I hadn’t first built those all-important personal relationships with other people.
I’m certainly not a personal networking guru; no doubt there are others who take to the conference circuit as naturally as they breathe. But the nice thing about my shift in focus has been the results I’ve gotten just by stepping a little bit out of my comfort zone.
With a little effort, I’ve managed to become the go-to resource for a lot of amazing people who need my help and previously didn’t know where else to turn. With a little effort of your own, you can become that resource for the people you most want to know too.
Do you find it hard to do the face-to-face side of your business? Have you developed any techniques that help?