Making Valuable Contacts Online
Remember the old saying: "it's not what you know, it's who you know"? It's true. Your
contacts determine whether your business succeeds or fails, and for reasons of
credibility, that's doubly true online.
Many people bristle when someone suggests that they network. If the term networking puts
you off, then think of it as making friends. People do business with people they know,
and your prospective clients need to hear your name many times before they buy from you.
Networking should be a cornerstone of your business. As my marketer friend Sally says:
"Networking makes all your business activities more effective."
Sally loves using the Internet to develop new contacts. She believes that you can establish
business relationships more easily online than you can offline. "I'd rather have someone
email me a proposal, than phone me. And if I'm the one creating the proposal, I'll do a
Web search on their business before I email them. The more you know about them the more
effective your initial contact will be. I'm flattered if I know that someone has taken the
time to find out about our business before they contact me for the first time."
Making new contacts step by step
With several hundred million people online, no matter how tiny your niche market, you'll
find it easy to make contacts online. Some of these contacts will be people who are in
the same business you're in, others will be suppliers, or prospective clients.
Note: some people hesitate to make contact with competitors. When I suggested to a
copywriting student of mine that she should contact local copywriters to see they were
charging, she freaked out. She didn't want to have anything to do with her competition.
This is a short-sighted attitude, because:
• whatever your business,
it's a small world. People know people, and people talk. If people know you because
they've had some contact with you, then when they're asked about you, they're more apt
to speak kindly of you;
• you'll learn what's
happening in your industry: who's hiring, who's landed a big new contract, and who's slow-paying;
• you've got someone
to whom you can refer clients, if the clients want something that you can't provide (and
with luck, your contacts will refer people to you);
• it's educational: you can swap techniques, suppliers, and shortcuts;
• and most importantly, you can find out what other local businesses are charging, and why.