Thursday, October 30, 2014

Business friends

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     Customers and clients are the most important part of business. Without them, you don't have a business.
     So, how do you find them and treat them?
     Let's talk about friends. Everyone has personal friends. And everyone has casual friends who are not so personal.
     Customers and clients are a third type of friend. These are business friends.
     These people have needs that can bring them to you. You offer products or services they want.
     If you treat your business friends as personal friends, some of them will be turned off. They will view your attentions as an invasion of privacy.
     If you treat them as casual friends, you run another risk. They might misinterpret your attention (of lack of) as less than serious.
     However, if you treat them as business friends, you have the best chance of success.
     So, what exactly is a business friend? Two examples tell the tale.

     Example: Elaine promotes her fashionable shop for women with social media posts of new designs she offers. Twice each year, she mounts a live fashion show with models wearing the designs carried in the shop. Models mingle with guests. Shoes, handbags and accessories are prominently displayed. Before and after the show, pictures are posted on social media. In addition, Elaine has developed a mailing list and she uses it in two ways. (1) She sends out gift certificates along with an invitation to special private showings. (2) She sends a Thank You card anytime someone spends over $100 in the shop. Elaine also makes herself available at all times to answer questions, discuss trends, and be the go-to adviser for clothing and accessories. All these activities contribute to building the business friend base.

     Example: Marsha started out with a small yoga studio, attracting a loyal base of business friends with her training, expertise, and relaxed attitude. Her clients lingered after their sessions, and she listened carefully to their concerns and problems. They had questions about nutrition, meditation, massage and other alternative therapies. So, a couple of years ago, Marsha decided to grow her business into more than her yoga sessions. Since then, she has attracted other professionals who offer a wide range of therapies. Together, they schedule open houses, programs, events, and information sessions built around the interests of the growing base of business friends. Everyone at the wellness center is sensitive to clients, trained to listen, spend time together and freely furnish information. With many pictures and posts on social media, the base of business friends continues to grow. Marsha still sees private yoga clients herself, but her wellness center has expanded far beyond yoga.

     These two examples show how small businesses can grow. In both cases, there is an intense focus on the customers and clients--their interests, their concerns, and their needs. When you listen carefully, your business friends will show you the way forward.

     Building your base of business friends takes attention, listening, transparency, honesty, and going the extra mile. Social media can provide many opportunities to nourish business friends--and extend your reach to many more people. The marketing mechanisms for small businesses have taken a quantum leap.

     Many more examples of cultivating business friends are scattered throughout these write-ups. Promoting and growing your small business has never been easier. Facebook offers a wealth of opportunities that were not available in yesterday's world. 

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