Marketing your business is like dating. Blind dates, one-night stands, unrequited loves, slow and steady suitors with honourable, long-term intentions – they all want different things and you need to know how to satisfy them all.
Someone refers you (or your business). They think what you have to offer is exactly what someone else they know needs. Whether this turns into something worthwhile is dependent upon two things – how well you’ve presented yourself to others and how you manage opportunities that come your way. Do you make a good first impression? Are you sufficiently prepared for that first encounter? Do you find out what the other party is looking for first before you start trying to sell yourself? Do you do more listening than talking? Do you gauge the encounter accurately, let your expectations be known and organise the appropriate follow-up?
Remember, not everyone you get introduced to is going to be a match made in heaven. But every introduction is an opportunity – to practise your presentation skills, to raise brand awareness and to develop your network.
You come across someone searching for something specific and rush into a quick encounter. No courting is done, no references are checked, and there are no calculated intentions of a long-term commitment. Everyone gets what they want at the time. Whether or not you’ll be the first person the other party thinks of next time they have the same needs is uncertain.
Because no real relationship has been groomed, you just never know what will happen. If you’ve performed well and delivered just what was required, you may start a relationship that results in ongoing, mutually beneficial contact. Alternatively, they may have no further use for you, but enjoyed your encounter so much that they tell all their friends about you. In business, consider all contacts as potential sources of word-of-mouth promotion.
You chase someone, extolling your wondrous virtues and hoping they’ll eventually realise how great you are. But you probably haven’t taken the time to actually ask them what they’re looking for or if there is anything in particular you might be able to offer. You just believe them to be a good match and start chasing. Instead of asking and listening, you continue to bombard them with your messages from all angles. They eventually ask you to stop contacting them and may even go so far as to tell others what an annoying pain you are. Instead of pausing to give them the opportunity to say “no thanks, but I know someone you might be better suited for”, you blow your chance. Not only are you cut off, but your reputation takes a knocking as well. You’re not sure what you did wrong, and you never stopped to ask, so you continue to make the same mistakes.
Don’t let it get this far. In all of your business interactions, make an effort to do more listening than talking, more asking than selling.
You believe in long-term relationships and open your eyes to all possibilities. You’re willing to look in some unexpected places, rather than always going for the same thing, avoiding clichés and crowded marketplaces. You evaluate your offering and alter it as needed to suit people you meet, all the while keeping it genuine and relevant. You do some research to see what others are offering and work hard to create an attractive point of difference. You evaluate relationships of the past – good and bad – and learn from those past interactions. You regularly take stock of things and plan for the future rather than deciding on a day-to-day basis what you’re doing and where you’re going. You consider the needs of others along with your own and are always interested in what they might want and need. These relationships usually go the distance, but they require ongoing attention. Manage them properly and everyone will be happy and prosperous.