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Join Our Research Team at DMA 2014
Dec 16, 2008
Interview

8 Low-Cost Networking Secrets for any Economy from a Veteran Consultant

SUMMARY: A rolodex is a powerful tool for a consultant – as long as it’s up to date. Your contact list has to stay fresh to be useful. And, refreshing it doesn’t have to break your budget.

Discover 8 low-cost strategies a consulting veteran uses to build meaningful relationships with business contacts and to keep them aware of her services.
You’re looking to cut costs and generate new revenue in a recession. Here’s a marketing adage to recall: Keeping an old customer is cheaper than getting a new one.

“The more contacts you are able to hang onto for the longest time, the more you are likely to develop the strong working relationships for guidance, advice, recommendations that will hold you in good stead for many years,” says Nancy Trent, President, Trent and Co., Inc.

Trent has been using low-cost strategies to network with her business contacts for almost 30 years. Her marketing communications and public relations agency focuses on the health, hospitality and travel industries.

Trent recommends always using low-cost methods to stay in touch with clients and contacts – regardless of the health of the economy. “Why be lavish with gifts and entertainment when it is the personal touch that is really meaningful in business and in life?” she says.

Uncover 8 low-cost strategies that Trent uses to nurture and build relationships that can keep a contact list fresh for years and years.

Building Business without Breaking the Bank: 8 Strategies

Strategy #1: Start with the most important contacts

Every business contact is useful, but some are more valuable than others. You can organize your contact list by order of importance to focus your efforts only on the most vital people.

Remember that your business contacts provide more than direct business. Other ways they help:
o Offer advice
o Provide businesses contacts in another region
o Share great ideas

“As a president and CEO, peer relationships with other business leaders are my most important contacts,” Trent says. “However, I have learned that, frequently, the best sources of information come from the product development and brand marketing executives.”

Strategy #2: Open up your home

Invite important business contacts to your home. You can share a meal and a discussion, or you can bond over a game or film.

“When appropriate, I love to show them the favorite part of my home, my infrared sauna which is in my living room,” Trent says. “However, I always try to get anyone who visits to my ping pong table to play a game.”

Strategy #3: Share your neighborhood and hobbies

When business contacts stop by, show them the little places in your town that only a resident would know. Take them to the nicest park, point out areas of interest, and tell them a few stories.

Trent lives in Manhattan, so when business contacts come by, she often takes out-of-towners on a tour of her neighborhood.

“The day of the national release of the movie Sex and the City, I could not get off the phone because, over the years, I have taken so many friends to spots from the show.”

Invite your contacts to join you in a shared hobby. These activities could include working out, doing yoga, hiking, golfing, shopping, or fishing. Remember that you were likely to pay to do the activity alone, so inviting a business contact to tag along will come at little or no additional cost.

Strategy #4: Keep in touch on a regular basis

To keep your contact list from going stale, connect with your contacts on a regular basis. Cutting back on contact frequency can really hurt your chances at staying in your clients’ consciousness.

“I try very hard to maintain contact on a monthly basis with relevant comments, insights and anecdotes. The main thing is to keep the conversation alive,” Trent says.

Strategy #5: Stay organized and efficient

Business people are busy; they cannot afford to have their time wasted. If you’re too slow to respond to their queries or to send a thank you, they’ll forget about you.

“Speed of response is paramount for maximizing the benefits of your contacts….Lose a business card, fail to reply to an email or voicemail message and you could lose an important business opportunity,” she says.

Develop a system to manage your contacts. Keep track of the last time you touched base with each person, how it was done, and a deadline for connecting with them again. Also, organize and list all new contacts and set yourself a deadline, such as 24 hours, for getting back to them.

This strategy is about keeping your current business contacts fresh to prevent you from having to spend time and effort on finding new ones.

Strategy #6: Send appreciation notes and cards

Mailing a letter is an inexpensive way to give your contacts a personal touch. When a client tells you about an achievement, send a letter of congratulations. When you discover their birthday, note the date to send a card. Send your contacts heartfelt gratitude letters, thanking them and telling them how much you appreciate their business and the referrals they’ve given you.

“A thank you should always be underscored with a personal message no matter what the occasion,” Trent says.

Strategy #7: Always ask for referrals

Asking for referrals is a cost-free way to find new clients. And, a referral from a friend or colleague sends a powerful marketing message. Don’t be afraid that you’re coming on too strong by asking.

“I don’t hesitate to ask for referrals,” Trent says.

Strategy #8: Make every contact count

Don’t call your clients without a reason. Have a goal – whether it is to help them, ask them for advice or information, or to bounce an idea off them. This will keep you from wasting your time and theirs.

“Maintaining contact is critical. Make your emails relevant and timely to continue the dialog. But, if you can provide really useful inside information, you will be seen as an ally,” Trent says. “Every conversation you have has a purpose. It’s your job to figure out what it is and make it happen.”

Useful links related to this article:

Rainmaking - 20 Simple Tactics to Gather & Pitch Leads
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/article.php?ident=30685


Trent & Company, Inc.
http://www.trentandcompany.com/


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