By Diana Gomez
There are some serious advantages to networking exclusively online. You have full, thoughtful control over your image. You can create content according to your calendarÂeven posting things on social media through a third party, right on time.
These things carry over into your personal approach. You feel more confident, more at ease with your marketing strategy. After all, no one is rejecting you to your face. And this would be all well and good… if your business is already perfect and you don’t need to grow or create any new business relationships.
The truth is, customers are more engaged, feel more understood and valued, and are more likely to return to your business if youÂ show your face in public. After all, even when buying online, customers are abstractly aware that a human is pulling the strings. Lifting the veil creates trustÂand what’s more important to a successful, long-lasting relationship than trust?
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, theÂ six keys to successful communication are:
- Engagement and focus on shared content
- Tone of voice*
- Facial expressions*
- The words someone uses
- Subconscious body language*
- Conscious movements or gestures*
Arguably, all of these may be more effective in face-to-face interaction than through online communication. Indisputably, the four starred items are exclusive to such.
Critical opportunities for face-to-face interaction include:
- Resolving problems efficiently.
- Fostering long-term relationships.
- Creating new relationships quickly.
Don’t worry! Even the shyest networker can step out from behind their computer screen and capitalize on these opportunities.
I thought I’d start big and ease you down the anxiety escalator. But don’t skip this just because it’s a lot of workÂit’s also the most effective way to get your name out there.
If you are interested in giving back to your community, partner with a local organization or charity. Not only will this increase your local visibility and give you a platform to advertise your business, but you will also be raising some money and doing some goodÂand that doesn’t go unnoticed by the public.
Trade show booths
You don’t have to throw a benefit with 500 attendees right off the bat. Trade shows and expos happen year round for various events in your areaÂmarathons, festivals, health food expos. Sign up for a booth and gain instant visibility within an existing market with similar interests.
I’m not saying you need to paint the entire side of a skyscraper or organize an impromptu dance routineÂpublicity stunts can be small and tasteful, but should always be in the tone and interest of your brand.
Hire a celebrity look-alike to pass out advertisements on the street. Hold a pie-making contest and garner attention for the entire three months leading up to it. Use your imagination, remain politically correct and tactful, and the rest will be local (or even viral) history.
Local sports teams
Children’s’ sports leagues are always looking for sponsors. Pardon my objectification, but you’ll practically have little billboards running around, even after the season has ended. They had fun, you gained visibility. What could be better? Added bonus for introverts: very little salesmanship is required from you.
A great way to ensure repeat business is to have your customers do the talking for you. Create referral incentivesÂin other words, if a customer refers a new person to your store, they get a bonus product or discount. This creates a sense of community and, literally, word of mouth.
When it can’t be face-to-face, make it face-to… hand? Nothing adds a personal touch like seeing a real person’s handwriting in all its weird, ink-smudged glory.
Handwritten touches are great as often as you can muster them. If you are pressed for this kind of time commitment, create a protocol for special occasionsÂif it’s indicated that it’s for a gift, for example, or if you can see from the customer registry that it’s their birthday or anniversary. If you find it really works for your brand, consider hiring a part-time student worker for just a few hours every week.
A great way to tie these personal communications into your social media strategy is with everyone’s favorite thing to hateÂhashtags. Include your chosen hashtag on your packaging, on all your products at networking events, even on those kids’ soccer tees.
The key is to choose a hashtag that is going to be relevant to your business for eternity. Don’t include a year or any other limiting qualities. This is a huge part of your branding, and has the potential to be that bridge between your real world relationships and digital interactions.
The fact is, in-person conversation accounts for only 40 percent of business communications. While most business owners are aware of this, convenience and the demand for multitasking leads to overblown amounts of screen time.
This is an opportunity for you to step up.Â When everyone else is hiding behind e-mails, you can be the one to go above and beyondÂand make your customers feel like they’ve been seen and heard as the whole person that they are.