One to ones

Word of mouth is probably the most powerful tool you can use to acquire new customers. The old adage “people buy people” still holds true today.

That means that networking and holding one to one meetings with other business owners should be part of your marketing strategy. Just spending 5 to 10 minutes talking with someone at a crowded network meeting isn’t enough to build a relationship and start to get referrals, which is where a one to one meeting works well.

It is primarily about building relationships, not selling, so the results take time to come through, which is why you need a simple, effective strategy.

When you attend a network meeting or business event, your aim isn’t to impress everyone in the room, it is to identify one or two people that you would like to get to know better. Although you can look for people with a particular type of business which you believe would generate referrals for you, it is more important to look for people who you have an instant liking for or have a connection with.

This makes it easier to create what will eventually be a productive business relationship. Remember that you aren’t trying to sell to the person you are talking to, you are looking to eventually sell to people they know and meet. They will only recommend you if they know, like and trust you.

Try this simple strategy (but feel free to change elements to fit your style):

1.       When talking to someone you feel a connection with at an event, explain that you would like a chat over coffee and swap business cards. Tell them you will be in touch.

2.       E-mail them the next working day at the latest, reminding them where and when you met. Explain that you would like to know more about their business and give them more information about yours, suggest meeting over coffee and give some suggested dates and times.

3.       When they reply positively, send a meeting request so it is in both your diaries. If they don’t reply, don’t bother chasing!

4.       At the meeting, offer to buy the drinks, then ask them to tell you about their background, what they do and why they started the business. Ask what their target market looks like and what their key business challenges are. If you can, suggest other people they may be interested in meeting.

5.       Then tell them about your background, why you started the business and what you do. Show examples of your work if possible, explain your target market and examples of the impact you have had if appropriate.

6.       At the end of the meeting (normally after an hour although mine often run to 90 minutes), thank them for their time, shake hands and pay for the drinks!

7.       Within 24 hours, send them a thank you e-mail with any agreed actions and also a LinkedIn connection request. If they accept the request, they will now see content you post on LinkedIn (and vice versa) which helps to keep your relationship going.

8.       From then on, anything can happen! If you haven’t heard from them or met them again after 3 to 4 months, suggest another one to one. It can take several meetings to get a business relationship to the point where you recommend each other.

As well as getting referrals, one to ones are also a useful way of building further contacts and getting advice from other business owners who have faced similar challenges to you. If you are talking with the right people, it can create a synergy which will help your business grow faster than it would otherwise.

So, to sum up, one to ones are a useful tool for any business owner, provided they are done and followed up in the right way. If you haven’t tried this approach before, give it a go and let us know how you get on!