Acceptance of Circumstances, community involvement, keeping up with trends, LinkedIn, Making Connections, Making Connections and Introductions, making time for things you value, Networking, relationship building, sales, staying current, target audiences, warriors, fighters, doing good, giving back, paying it forward

How to Pivot Your Business Toward Relationship-Building in the Time of COVID-19

By Guest Blogger, Bethany Clarke

Running a business these days is no joke. The global pandemic has put many small businesses into a tailspin. No one’s seen anything like this before and everyone’s talking about “pivoting,” but what does that actually mean? What does a pivot look like for you? 

You’re great at running and marketing your business. You’ve got the branding, social media, and your new client funnel down to a science. You’re turning a profit and you can’t believe how far you’ve come since the first days of starting out, but this COVID-19 deal is uncharted territory.

You’re not alone. Sales for many businesses have dropped this month due to the distraction provided by the pandemic, but particularly, due to its associated social distancing practices. Yes, the latter are a matter of national health, but man, are they a pain for conducting in-person sales activities. And, our current world scenario has made all forms of sales and outreach activities far more difficult and far less effective, whether they be in-person, phone, or e-communications ones. That’s why we recommend that your pivot be one that includes relationship building.

What’s the deal with relationships? They will be what sustains you through this crisis and after it is over. By reaching out to potential clients now, you can be certain that you’ll be one of the first people they come to once the crisis has receded. You can establish yourself as a credible, helpful and friendly resource in your field, and even a “thought leader.”

How to make the pivot toward relationship building?

  1. Establish connections online by devoting a half hour to posting and being present on your social media each day. That’s enough time to reply to comments on your posts or to comment on others’ posts. Always make an effort to do this, especially on Facebook and Instagram since that’s part of the algorithm that drives your posts to the top of people’s feeds. 
  1. Direct message followers who are your dream clients. Now’s the time to reach out and say “hello” and offer to help or provide information they might find particularly beneficial at this point in time. Most people have more free time lately and are craving connections. If you’re making a practice of extending your olive branch now in a very genuine/authentic and heart-felt way, you’ll be remembered by people for helping make this hard time a little easier for them.
  1. Reach out to people who operate in fields adjacent to yours and who serve the same vertical (target audiences) you’d like to do work for. For instance, if you’re a copywriter, you could connect with someone who does graphic design. In the future, when you meet a client who needs a website re-done, you can provide your client with the copy they need, and then refer them to your colleague who will design their fancy new logo or design their new website. If you help nonprofits with marketing, but there are other firms that don’t compete with you that offer bookkeeping services for nonprofits, then why not try to be referral sources for each other? These referrals can go both ways. People in your identical spaces could be competitors but what if you shifted that perspective? What if you turned them into collaborators or work referral sources? Developing a “referral circle” is an excellent way to broaden and strengthen your network and increase your customer base.

Aside from all the business benefits that come along with establishing and maintaining relationships, having these positive, collaborative, helpful relationships just feels really good right now. In this time of isolation, it’s human and healthy to crave connection with others. Making the pivot toward relationship building in your business will not only make your business stronger, but it may help make you healthier and happier as well.

LinkedIn, Networking, social media, Uncategorized

Identify the “Link” Before You Send a LinkedIn Invite to Connect

Because I’m a digital marketing expert, and advise clients on social media strategy and/or serve as their social media voice, I felt I owed it to the many individuals who use LinkedIn — both the right way and the wrong way — to call out a major user “faux pas” and how to fix it.

Given the fact no job or business is ever 100% secure — times and interest in products and services by current customers change rapidly, management comes and goes, new technology makes certain products or services obsolete, etc. — if you are of employment age, then you should be maintaining an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn and actively using it to connect with both individuals you do know, and individuals you don’t. This will ensure you are adequately connected when you find yourself in need of identifying your next permanent or contract gig.

So, now to the “faux pas”. If you’re going to reach out to someone via LinkedIn whom you don’t know well or don’t know at all, and it’s not totally obvious why you want to connect with them (for example, they are not a close friend, or former co-worker or manager), you should never, ever send an invite to connect without 1) devising a note of some sort  that goes beyond the standard one of “I’d like to connect on LinkedIn.”; and 2) including in your note some context around why you want to connect.

LinkedInInvite

As a marketer who understands “best practices” and the proper use of various forms of social media, for some time now, I haven’t accepted requests to connect from individuals I don’t know who haven’t taken the time to explain why we should “connect.” However, I’m kind enough to reach out to these “inviters” and ask them why they want to connect before I completely write them off as a possible LinkedIn connection. I hope by doing so, I’m teaching them how to better make connections going forward, so they they and all LinkedIn users will benefit.

A good salesperson knows you have to explain the value-add associated with any product or service you sell. In the case of LinkedIn, you are selling yourself, and you need to explain to your “invitee” why and how they would benefit from connecting with you. As the inviter, you have the responsibility to identify the “link” for your “invitee”. Hey you wouldn’t invite someone to a party or event without explaining what it’s all about, right? The “link” could be having careers in the same field, volunteering at the same organization or ones with similar interests, having attended the same college or graduate school, having a lot of mutual connections, having the same passions/interests, etc. The explanation you provide with your invite doesn’t have to be long. In fact, ideally it shouldn’t be (you can and should wait until your target “invitee” accepts before providing too much detail; you can use the LinkedIn “message” function later on to provide that greater detail). Sample explanations include:

  • “I’d love to connect with you because of our similar interests in healthcare technology”
  • I’d love to connect because I see we have quite a few mutual connections from our careers in community banking”
  • “I think we’d enjoy being connected because I see we are equally passionate about digital marketing”
  • “I’d welcome connecting because I really enjoyed your article, blog post, presentation, etc. about x,y, and z, and I’d love to keep the conversation going.”

So, the next time you go to send a LinkedIn invite to connect, give some good thought as to why you want to connect with the individual in-question, and why they’d want to connect with you. If all LinkedIn users employ this protocol, we can improve on the great tool that LinkedIn already is and make it an even more effective environment for ensuring interesting conversations and beneficial connections happen between the right people.