Some business relationships naturally tend to be more beneficial than others. For example, if you are targeting businesses that cater to the wedding market, it makes sense to develop relationships with people who work in businesses such as event planners, florists and caterers. If you’re a mortgage lender, good contacts for you include realtors and an insurance salesperson. By building business relationships with people who share the same niche target customer that you do, you are forming what is commonly referred to as a contact sphere. Contact spheres are generally formed by people who are in compatible but non-competitive professions. As you get to know each other and develop trust, you can refer business to each other and help each other to be successful.
Social Networking – Both Traditional & Online Websites Work
In the brick and mortar world, we network face-to-face in organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and within networking groups like BNI (Business Network International). Within these formal groups, we are taught to form contact spheres. We meet each other in person and exchange information and build trust in one another.
In this virtual world that we now compete in, we can be marketing our products and services internationally. Contact spheres are as important as ever. By meeting like-minded business people to support and collaborate with, entrepreneurs and small business owners can expand their reach. More than ever we need to find and build our support system.
Personally, I feel it’s less important these days to find like-minded people in non-competitive businesses. I believe that I can learn from other people who are offering the same services and products that I do. I definitely need to differentiate myself and convince potential clients that I have the best solution but I certainly can benefit from learning from other people in my field. I benefit from having relationships with other like-minded people who I can brainstorm and collaborate with. Each of us has our own specialties and by collaborating, we can help each other be successful.
Building Your Contact Sphere/Circle of Friends
So, in this virtual world where it’s not as easy to always meet face-to-face, how do we build contact spheres (or circle of friends as many bloggers refer to them)? If you’ve read my last two articles on Twitter and taken my poll about whether Twitter is a distraction or a referral source, you’ll see that there’s a healthy discussion going on as to which social networks work and you’ll see that many of us do not use the same social networks nor do we use them in the same way. Some of us have carefully planned strategies for social networking. Others suddenly found themselves tweeting almost as if by accident.
To meet other business people who have working relationships with your potential clients, start by identifying the types of businesses that your potential clients work with. What other needs does your target market have? Who meets these needs? Where can you find them? Commenting on blogs, participating in forums, and identifying the social networking sites that your potential customers are on is one place to start. Look for influential people who you can develop meaningful relationships with.
One of my favorite online resources is Social Media Examiner. I follow them, tweet and like them on Facebook. If you’re interested in learning more a developing a social networking strategy, I recommend reading “7 Steps For a Successful Social Media Strategy”.
As always, I’m interested in hearing your strategies too. What’s working for you? Do you have a circle of friends who you can turn to? Who do you highly recommend as a resource?