Tips for Building Relationships with Local Customers
I’ve mentioned before that I’m asked questions often by friends and fellow bloggers that are interested in now turning their blogging business into something more by consulting. I’m asked how to get started, what to charge, how to find clients and we’ll I’ve addressed a few of these questions but what I have talked about is how your backyard is full of potential clients. It’s true. I’ve worked locally for small mom and pop stores to our local casino consulting on an hourly basis. The potential is unlimited.
Bloggers feel as though they’re working with these national brands and while at large blogging and social media conferences they’re talking to brand representatives and PR agencies – this is their target market. I beg to differ. I think that there is always potential to work and consult with national and global brands, I’m a perfect example but I know firsthand that the local market is in need of social media consultants and bloggers that know what they are doing. Not newbie’s or someone playing but professionals that have been doing this for a few years and have testimonials, examples and have grown their own business – you can’t just have a blog and call yourself a social media consultant.
To start my best advice is skip the pitching to the national brands and PR you are working with and start in your local community. Become known for what you do by being helpful, knowledgeable, and reliable and the go-to guy/gal in your community for social media help. I can honestly say that I’m looked at this way by many in my community from my local chamber, local women’s group, community college, local arts center and many small business owners. I have done my research and I know the competition in my area, I know who is doing what and how I am set apart from each every competitor.
Teach Social Media 101
The best way to start is to become known in your community as an expert in the field is to start teaching social media courses or workshops. You’re unique knowledge as a business owner can give other business owners a lot of insight to put to use or call on you when they need to take things to the next level. This does two important things. One, it shows that you’re a helpful member of the community. Two, it gets your business started using social media and demonstrating you have the skills and expertise. When they need help managing a campaign or launching a blog they’ll come to you.
Create both online and offline courses to help local business owners get off the ground socially and offer those courses for free. Think of it as free advertising that will pay off in spades in the long run. I’ve taught several courses at the community college paid and unpaid as well as spoken at women in business lunches and chamber in business events. I can tell you that that the work has paid off!
Build Non-Business Relationships
Get involved in non-business activities in your community. Join local clubs, charities, organizations, and other groups. When you get to know people on a personal level, it builds trust. Remember, customers buy from people they know, like and trust. When you’re a visible, active member of the community, people will naturally come to you when they need help online.
Get to Know Influencers
In every community, there are highly influential people. If you get to know these people, they’ll become your advocates. Influencers know everyone in the community and people in the community tend to listen to what they have to say. An endorsement from this type of person goes a long way in establishing your reputation. A great way to find key influencers is to join your local Chamber of Commerce or a popular social club. Having the endorsement of my Chamber and for recommendations and a reference locally is very powerful.
Build an Email List
Encourage the people you meet and associate with to join your email list. On your list, offer valuable exclusive content that they can use. For example, teach a basic social media course through your email list, showing subscribers how to get set up with profiles on popular social media websites. Give your readers tips on social media best practices and show them online resources to help make social media easier for them.
You may also choose to make special offers, such as member-only discounts on your services, but keep promotions at a minimum. The purpose of your list should be to help.
The key to building relationships with offline prospects is to forget about making a sale or signing up a new client. Business should be on the outer edges of your mind. Teach people about social media and take part in community activities out of a desire to give something to the community. This is how you establish your reputation as an approachable, friendly and helpful local businessperson. Demonstrate your desire to help others and people will naturally come to you when they need help. Soon those people become clients who then refer other clients.
Good luck and remember; start locally and you’ll build your resume, business and then be positioned to work for national and global brands. Working with local community members certainly gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.