Connect With Your Clients – Create a Plan

Posted on February 3, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Are you a small business owner who wants more business?

I believe – as do 99% of marketing and sales professionals – that business is built on the strength of your client relationships.  Sure, there are strictly transactional sales processes, like when I pick up some gum at a random corner store, but they don’t sustain business for the long term.  (Hmmm, I’m sure there’s a post about the decline of the local corner store there.  Remind me.)

How do you want to connect?
That said, how do you build relationships with clients, or with the people that you hope to make your clients over the longer term?  By connecting with them in a variety of ways.  Let me give you an example:

Mind mapping my communications plan
This morning, I pulled out my roll of newsprint to get a handle on the many ways I want WordSpring to connect with my target market, and become a successful business.  In less than 10 minutes, I had a spider-webbed mind map of the various ways I want to interact with and provide service to my clients.  Some of them will bring in money, and some of them are simply smart ways to help them know, like and trust me.  I’ve included a picture of my handiwork – it’s not beautiful, like Christine Merkley’s drawings, but it is at least a framework for me to follow.
Remember to include the other details
I can’t overemphasize how important that framework is, no matter the size or scope of your business.  My little web is going to form the basis of my communications plan, which I will write out in further detail and make a part of my business plan.  Here, I have mapped out the “what” of my plan.  As I convert it into a more detailed document, it will include the “why”, the “how often”, the “what method”, the”who is it for”. 

Communications plans work for EVERY business
These are the steps I go through with my clients as well, in preparing communications plans for them.  When it is done, you can actually figure out exactly how often you “touch” your client base, and for what purpose.  You’ll also know how much time and money you are spending on each activity, and be able to calculate the much-talked about Return on Investment. 

The advantage of diverse communications
You know what is the best part of a multi-faceted communications plan?  You are planning a diversity of relationship-building communications, and not restricting yourself to what comes naturally.  Your chances of making that crucial connection increase vastly because you are using a variety of formats.  Heaven knows, many people don’t read blogs at all, while others are happy to use Twitter, but couldn’t imagine stepping into a business networking meeting.  And yes, some people would probably rather get a nicely written note or even printed newsletter from you every so often than deal with anything on-line.

Obviously, my business lends itself naturally to this process.  What is marketing about, if not connecting?  But believe me, it is important as well for mechanics, chiropractors, and ink jet refillers.  Tell your people how you go about your work, why you are unique, and why they – as clients – are important to you.

You don’t have to do this alone
Perhaps you are so busy working in your business that you would rather delegate some of this communications planning work to someone with experience.  While the core information still has to come from you, the small business owner, most reputable PR and marketing professionals will work with you to create a communications strategy.  Certainly in larger companies, communications plans drive the marketing department activities, and marketing is in constant communication with the executive to make sure that their marketing efforts fit with the overall company strategy. 

Here’s your challenge: take 10 minutes and a big piece of paper.  Jot down all that you do to connect with your customers.  See if it forms a picture that you are happy with.  And why not send me a comment with your results?  I’d be happy to give you a hand, if you need it.

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A Lifetime of Persistence Part 3

Posted on December 9, 2008. Filed under: People to Follow | Tags: , |

Who recognizes this pattern:

Finish education “by the skin of your teeth”.  Use charm and outgoing personality to develop some amazing contacts.  Through great contacts, get prestigious, if safe,  job.  Get bored at job and blow it off to start an exciting new venture.  Put together a team of people to help with new venture, only to watch it all blow apart when and partners don’t get along.  Make lots of money quickly, and lose it all just as quickly.  Write encouraging letters to family, saying “Money is on its way, really!”

This was the pattern that Napoleon Hill followed for many years.  At just 24 years old, he’d already tried his hand at law school and at managing a coal mine, but neither of these pursuits fit with his restless, ambitious nature.  Fortunately, writing for Bob Taylor’s Magazine was pretty good fit, though it didn’t provide a full-time income.  This magazine was written in the same spirit as our current “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series – inspiring stories of the famous and not-so-famous. 

In particular, the writing gig put Napoleon in contact with some of the most successful people of the time, and one contact in particular would have a profound impact on Napoleon’s life.  This contact gave him an overarching purpose even as he struggled through some huge personal ups and downs over the years.

The man’s name was Andrew Carnegie.  Napoleon Hill was commissioned to interview him for Bob Taylor’s Magazine in 1908, when Carnegie was one of America’s richest men.  In a Friday afternoon interview that ended up lasting the whole weekend, Carnegie shared his philosophy of success with Napoleon, and ultimately issued the young man a challenge.  Here’s a quote from the book, “A Lifetime of Riches”:

“All it would take, Carnegie believed, was sharing that knowledge – the philosophy and the steps to success – that had been gained by those who achieved greatness.  Carnegie knew this could be a priceless gift to millions of people: an opportunity to learn from those who had started out no differently than any other person, but had through the infinite power of their minds transformed their lives and the lives of millions of others.”

Carnegie thought this challenge would take 20 years to complete, and he wasn’t offering pay – just letters of introduction and travel costs.  The rest was on Napoleon Hill’s shoulders.  It took Napoleon only 29 seconds, the book says, to say yes.  And despite jumping from job to business venture to another job or venture every two years for almost the whole twenty years, regardless of the fact that very shortly after his pivotal meeting with Carnegie, Napoleon met and married Florence Horner and started a family, he kept up his research and interviews.  Occasionally, his committment to the project seemed to threaten the fabric of his family life.  For almost their entire marriage, Napoleon lived apart from Florence and their children, preferring to seek his fortune away from their home of Lumberport, VA.  And also for most of their marriage, it was Florence’s family money, and even money from Napoleon’s father James Hill that kept a roof over their heads.  The “riches” promised in both Napoleon Hill’s most famous book and in his biography were still a long way off.

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